Hazardous, indeed

September 01, 2011

When it comes to knowing about the kinds of testing that have gone on at Aberdeen Proving Ground over the decades, there are two kinds of people in these parts: those who have heard the stories and those who will.

Much of what goes on at APG is highly classified. It is, after all, a proving ground, which means experimental technologies vital to national defense are being tested there. The Aberdeen Area was long associated with tank testing; the Edgewood Area (formerly known as the Edgewood Arsenal) has been associated more with chemical and biological weapons.

Bits of verifiable information come out in court proceedings and from time to time when high level policies change that offer official hints at what goes on in the territories behind the fence.

Then there was the matter of the chemical weapon referred to by the Army as mustard agent which was stored on post for decades before being destroyed a few years back.

It suffices to say the military has long had stores of an array of horribly dangerous chemicals. Some clearly are used to test the viability of gear being developed for our troops. For most of us, it's a matter of pure conjecture as to what else is out there, and for those who know, they're sworn to secrecy.

Given this background, the Army is planning to seek a change in the status of its environmental permits issued by the State of Maryland and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In short, the Munitions Assessment and Processing System (which in the grand tradition of the U.S. Armed Forces, has an acronym that can be pronounced, MAPS) is looking to have a research permit issued a decade ago incorporated into the more long-term permits already in place at APG.

There's a public hearing on the matter at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 at the Edgewood Library at 629 Edgewood Road.

It's a positive development that the change is being sought and in an way that's sort of open to the public. In years to come, it'll probably make it easier for future generations to determine what's been done at APG and to what degree they need to deal with the fallout.

For most of us around now, though, it's a matter of little consequence. The Army, arguably for good national security reasons, could probably get away without securing any meaningful environmental permits for the work done at APG.

Whether that kind of secrecy on the part of the military is good, bad or neither is the subject of a different kind of debate.

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