By Barry R. Napp (USAEC)April 7, 2014
Aggressively seeking ways to rapidly reduce any potential threats to human health and the environment, while also cutting life-cycle remediation costs, helped Fort George G. Meade win the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Environmental Restoration in the individual/team category for fiscal year 2013.
For almost 100 years, Fort Meade's various missions from cavalry and mechanized units to information, intelligence and cyber operations have contributed to our national defense. During those activities, post practices for the storage, handling and disposal of chemicals and other wastes always followed accepted practices of the time. More recently some of those materials and methods have been found to have potentially adverse environmental impacts.
Fort Meade is addressing any possible contamination through its installation restoration and military munitions response programs. Investigations found 41 identified sites, including six military munitions response sites, plus 83 active areas of interest. The size and complexity of these restoration efforts require innovative management and outreach to ensure cleanup goals align of with both installation use, and the health and safety of the community.
"In just the last two years, over 130 acres of land previously suspected of being contaminated have been investigated and determined available for beneficial reuse," said Paul Fluck, program manager for Fort Meade's installation restoration program. "While the issues we are remediating stem from historic operations, the correction of those problems will benefit generations to come and we're all proud of that."
The installation's restoration team worked collaboratively with EPA, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the local community to reduce the time and costs associated with project remediation. A more robust sampling effort, coupled with a streamlined risk assessment process, released Fort Meade from restricted use on 134 acres by enabling consensus among all concerned regulators that no further action was necessary on a number of sites.
"We are most proud of our innovative scientific and management techniques that reduce risk of exposure to harmful chemicals in soil or groundwater and still save the Army approximately $17.5 million dollars," Fluck said. "I think it's a true demonstration of Fort Meade's commitment to the environment and the people who live, work and participate in recreational activities here."
The restoration team is always looking for opportunities to not only clean up the land, but also to reduce the installation's carbon footprint. In addition using an electric vehicle whenever possible, the team saved the army money and fuel, reduced truck traffic and limited exhaust by arranging for the disposal of investigation-derived waste at the post wastewater treatment plant.
Instead of just demolishing one of the post's boiler plant groundwater treatment systems, the team identified and recycled 89.76 tons of the total 90.2 tons of material associated with its deconstruction. Members also removed and recycled another 22 tons of concrete at an uncontrolled dump site.
"We are extremely fortunate to have a dedicated and hardworking team of professionals on our staff," said Fort Meade Garrison Commander Col. Brian P. Foley. "To have official recognition by a panel of experts that our environmental restoration program is the best in the Army is particularly gratifying."
As a Secretary of the Army environmental award winner, the Fort Meade team will represent the Army in the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards competition this spring.
"Environmental stewardship is a responsibility we owe the American people and in particular our local Maryland community," Foley said. "We take this responsibility seriously and will continue maximum effort to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations."