- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, is criticizing the Defense Department for declining to submit to legally binding timelines to clean up groundwater pollution at military sites in Anne Arundel and Frederick counties.

The Army has “used Band-Aids” to deal with the issue and has not complied with the Environmental Protection Agency, he said at a congressional hearing last week.

“The [Defense Department] has done everything it can to deny its responsibility,” Mr. Cardin said. “They’ve put off repair because they’d rather spend the money elsewhere.”

Wayne Arny, deputy undersecretary of defense for installation and environment, told Mr. Cardin that the Army has done all that has been required.

“When you issue that [EPA] order, you’re supposed to identify some immediate and pressing danger,” he said. “There was no immediate and pressing danger.”

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Affairs hearing came less than a month after state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced Maryland’s intention to sue the Pentagon over its refusal to comply with an EPA order.

The agency has demanded the Defense Department clean up 91-year-old Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, 77-year-old Fort Detrick in Frederick County and 13 other military sites nationwide.

Water and soil analysis has shown the presence of toxins - including old metal degreaser (trichloroethylene) and lubrication compound (polychlorinated biphenyl or PCB) at Fort Meade, Fort Detrick and other sites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers trichloroethylene and PCBs potentially carcinogenic.

The Defense Department has said it has spent more than $120 million cleaning the sites and plans to spend tens of millions more.

Since 1988, Fort Meade has been on the Superfund list, a compilation of the most polluted places in the country. The EPA proposed adding Fort Detrick, a site used during World War II for biological-warfare research, to the list this month.

Other panelists testifying at the hearing included Shari T. Wilson of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Defense Department officials have said the drinking water is safe at Fort Meade and at Fort Detrick and disagree that cleanup must happen immediately.

Miss Wilson’s testimony partly supported the view.

“While there is no immediate health risk at Fort Meade, we want to have confidence the cleanup work will be done in a timely way,” she said. “Without that legal step, it’s very difficult” to enforce.

Fort Detrick and Fort Meade will gain thousands of new employees in the coming years as part of the latest Base Realignment And Closure process.

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