- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Army for failing to act on a federal order to clean up pollution at Fort Meade.

The Army has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland environmental officials for years to address pollution at the Army base. But state officials contend that the Army is taking too long to comply.

Last year, the EPA ordered the Army to take immediate action to clean up the site after the agency found the pollution to be a threat to public health.

“The Army has failed to comply, and EPA has not commenced an enforcement action against its fellow agency,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said the Army was “heading in the right direction by expressing willingness to comply with the EPA order. But the Army must agree to a legally binding commitment that clearly details a timeline for cleanup and immediate action to protect public health.”

The court filing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore was made after the state filed a notice of intent in August to sue if the Army failed to commit to specific actions and a timeline for cleanup within 90 days.

Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environmental safety and occupational health, said the Army was disappointed by the lawsuit. He added that the Army notified EPA this month about plans to clean up Fort Meade that included a timeline and schedule. Mr. Davis also said that roughly $84 million has been spent cleaning up the area since the 1990s. He said another $24 million has been committed to the cleanup.

Mr. Davis, who said he was limited in what he could say because of the lawsuit, said the Army is committed to working closely with EPA as well as state and local officials to clean up the area.

“We’re going to continue to keep them apprised of the work that’s being done there as we move forward,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department ordered the Army to comply with the EPA requirements.

A 1990s evaluation at Fort Meade revealed a list of pollution from solvents, pesticides, PCBs, heavy metals, waste fuels and waste oils left there by the military over the years. Fort Meade was designated a Superfund site in 1998. It has never had a deadline for cleanup.

While some of the pollutants have been removed, significant contamination remains.

“Much of the soil contamination is at concentrations that indicate there may be an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment,” according to the complaint.

Fort Meade was established in 1917 and sits on about 13,500 acres of land in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, not far from the nation’s capital. Fort Meade includes the headquarters for the National Security Agency. The fort has a total of about 40,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel.

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