Aberdeen Proving Ground's mission

April 04, 1995

Aberdeen Proving Ground is an important part of Harford County and has been ever since it was established three-quarters of a century ago.

Along with the former Edgewood Arsenal, now the Edgewood Area of APG, it has been the major employer and the biggest dynamo of the Harford economy, to the tune of 15,000 jobs and $435 million in estimated impact last year.

But the Army post's primary mission from the beginning has been the testing of munitions, explosives and chemical weaponry. That is what the proving ground is designed for. So the 72,000-acre reservation straddling the Bush River presents a mixed blessing for residential communities.

This dual character of APG in Harford is mirrored in two recent news reports.

Hundreds of homeowners near the facility are concerned about Army plans to remove buried unexploded chemical weapons near the Willoughby Beach Road communities in Edgewood. Many residents are genuinely surprised that the toxic residue of Army testing lies so close to their houses and schools. A developer stands accused of not making required disclosures to buyers about the past chemical testing in that vicinity.

The other report is about the formation of a citizens committee by the county and the city of Aberdeen to monitor potential losses of jobs and military missions at the proving ground. Since 1992, the base has lost 1,700 civilian and military jobs, mostly through attrition.

While the installation seems in no danger of closing, given its unique resources and recent investments in new facilities there, Aberdeen Proving Ground is not immune to the downsizing of military activities across the country. Functions have been transferred or consolidated elsewhere, empty positions have not been filled.

The Citizen Advocates for APG committee will provide early warning to local government of potential employment reductions at the post.

To inform residents about its proposed cleanup of the buried chemical weapons, the Army is sending out 20,000 letters and holding public meetings. Military experts insist that high technology methods can safely find and remove the buried shells.

Citizens should be fully informed of these plans, just as they should recognize the potential problems involved with weapons testing activities, past and present, at Aberdeen Proving Ground. For the installation is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the Harford community and economy.

PTC

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