Cleanup of Tipton airfield could take up to 18 months

November 14, 1995|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The holding pattern for Howard County pilots awaiting a local airport has been extended to at least a year and possibly 18 months.

That's how long it will take the Army to clean Tipton Army Airfield and sign it over to Howard and Anne Arundel counties, Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Howard County Planning and Zoning Department, told the County Council yesterday.

"We're probably a year to 18 months from an opening -- in the best-case scenario," he said.

The airfield is the last of more than 8,000 acres of Fort Meade property to be converted to civilian use under the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1988.

Howard and Anne Arundel have wanted to open Tipton as V VTC civilian airport for noncommercial flights. But officials became concerned about landfills and buried explosives there.

This month, workers started digging and found several fuses and an unexploded hand grenade.

The explosives buried at Tipton could date to World War I.

"It's not something you would see at an arms convention," said Richard Johnson, project manager for Human Factors Applications Inc., a Waldorf company hired by the Army. "It has been laying around for a while."

After the cleanup, officials in Howard and Anne Arundel do not want to be vulnerable to lawsuits.

"We want to maintain that the Army holds on to third-person liability for perpetuity," Mr. Rutter told the council. "Nothing has been signed. Neither Howard County nor Anne Arundel County has committed to anything."

He said the Army has closed some Tipton facilities until the cleanup is complete.

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