Fort Meade works out deal for cleanup

Project to reduce runoff avoids fine for oil drums

April 18, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Officials at Fort Meade are working on a restoration project they hope will get them out of trouble with state and federal authorities and wrapping up plans to transfer Tipton Airport to Anne Arundel County for good.

In an agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment that was announced last week, the post's Environmental Management Office will reshape tributaries and place small water-loving plants along the banks of Franklin Branch to reduce runoff into that waterway and into Burba Lake, post officials said.

In exchange, MDE will close the books on a September 1997 infraction stemming from the discovery of buried oil drums at the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office on the southern end of the post. Cleanup of the site, once under state supervision, will be turned over to the Environmental Protection Agency, which also is monitoring pollution abatement.

The state ordered the post to pay a $75,000 fine for the oil drums. Instead of appealing that in federal court or paying the fine, the post suggested to MDE officials last year that the money might be used for another environmental project if the state would drop the charge.

"It eliminates the need for us to litigate," said Jeffrey C. Dozier, chief of the Fort Meade administrative law office. The restoration project will cost about $80,000, post officials said. "It's really a model of cooperation. The state asserted its authority, the federal government agreed. We worked to reconcile our differences and work together for the environment."

The restoration project will go hand in hand with another project to clean Burba Lake. Last year, the Army began dredging and reshaping the lake, which was filled with sediment and nutrients. The sediment removed in the dredging was then used to cap off one of the post's landfills, Dozier said.

Post and state officials are working on the design of the restoration project. Workers could begin planting before the end of the year, Dozier said.

Fort Meade was placed on the EPA's National Priorities List in July, in part because the post was slow in cleaning up contamination at four sites, including Tipton airfield, which was to have been turned over to the county for public use 10 years ago.

Plans to make that transaction permanent are being completed, post officials say. A proposal for cleaning and monitoring a section of the 366-acre parcel, which includes two landfills, is to be released this month, according to Fort Meade spokesman Don McClow. A public comment period will begin next month.

County officials are anxious to start using the property. The parcel includes three hangars and runways, which the county intends to use as a general aviation airport.

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