Ending a long legal dispute, the Army has agreed to an enforceable timetable for cleaning up contaminated Superfund sites at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin announced Monday.
Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the Army had signed a "federal facilities agreement" governing the cleanup of groundwater and soil contamination on the sprawling base near Odenton.
The announcement comes six months after Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler filed suit against the Army for failing to comply with a cleanup order issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The order required the Army to produce a timetable for remedying the longstanding pollution problems at the base, and to sign the legally binding agreement to follow through.
A spokeswoman for Gansler confirmed that the Army had signed the agreement.
"We had given them a deadline, and it appears they finally complied," said Raquel Guillory, the spokeswoman. "We're very happy." The attorney general's office plans to review the agreement before deciding whether to drop the suit, Guillory said.
A Fort Meade spokesman said the agreement would have no effect on the cleanup at the base, which has been under way for years. The Army has already spent $84 million remedying environmental problems there, said Harry Lockley, the base spokesman.
"We're pressing on, and we have been," Lockley said. "This is more of an administrative compliance issue, rather than [about] the actual remediation itself."
To ensure the long-running cleanup got done, EPA and state and local officials had wanted the Army to agree to a legally binding timetable. Army officials had balked at signing the agreement, which gives civilian environmental agencies enforcement authority over the Army. The Army appealed to the Justice Department, but the department lawyers declared late last year that the Army must follow EPA's order. Gansler sued a few weeks later.
There are 14 contaminated sites on the base and three others on property that was transferred to the Department of Interior to be part of the Patuxent Research Refuge. Groundwater contaminated with toxic cleaning solvents believed to have been disposed of in a landfill on the base also has been detected in monitoring wells off the base near the Odenton MARC commuter rail station. Lockley, the base spokesman, said work continues on assessing the extent of the groundwater contamination.