The Army signed an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Architect of the Capitol addressing the cleanup of contaminated sites on and around post. The Federal Facility Agreement will guide ongoing post cleanup efforts and will include timelines and provisions to resolve disputes on the proposed cleanup activities on the installation and on land formally owned by the Army, now transferred to the Department of the Interior and to the Architect of the Capitol.
The signing represents a chance for all the parties to move forward, said Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas.
"Coming to an agreement between all of these agencies was a long and complicated task," he said. "Our commitment to environmental cleanup at Fort Meade continued nonstop while these negotiations were under way."
Since 1998, Fort Meade has been on the National Priorities List, which is the equivalent of a private company being placed on the Superfund list for known environmental contamination. The origin of the contamination at each site varies from such sources as Fort Meade's now-closed landfill to waste from the post's former dry cleaning facility.
The post has been cleaning up or monitoring contaminated sites for years. So far, the Army has spent $84 million on remediation efforts on the installation and expects to spend an additional $24 million on similar work, said Mick Butler, chief of Fort Meade's Environmental Division.
The Army aims to have all remediation efforts in place by 2014. In addition, the approved remediation actions at Fort Meade will most likely include monitoring groundwater at certain contaminated sites, such as at the post's closed landfill, for many years beyond 2014, Butler said.
The FFA, though, will provide needed structure and deadlines for project completion, providing oversight that the cleanup process needed, said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, who helped push the signing procsss forward as a member of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.
While all four parties consented to the FFA, work on the agreement has not finished. The plan is scheduled to be released to the public to allow for comments for about 45 days. That time will be followed by a period in which comments will be reviewed and possibly incorporated into the agreement.
The Maryland state government is waiting until after the document is finalized to determine whether it will drop its pending lawsuit against the Army over cleanup at the post, said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler.
"Until we see the actual final product, post the 45-day period, the suit will continue," she said.
Fort Meade official remains optimistic that the agreement has satisfied the concerns of both stakeholders and the public, and that the finalized agreement will allow better communication between all parties and a clear process to complete the remaining cleanup work here, Butler said.

Page last updated Thu July 2nd, 2009 at 10:00