By Alan J. McCombsApril 15, 2009
FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, April 15, 2009) -- With Earth Day approaching, federal officials and Army leaders examined both the past and future of environmental protection during a visit to Fort Meade April 14.
Members of MarylandAca,!a,,cs congressional delegation joined Lisa Jackson, the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Fort Meade Garrison Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas in celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the EPAAca,!a,,cs Environmental Science Center on post.
But the day wasnAca,!a,,ct just a look back at the history of the science center, which has played crucial roles in events such as the cleanup of Senate offices and other government facilities following the 2001 anthrax attacks. Leaders also discussed how agencies can work together to be better stewards for the environment.
Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. John Sarbanes met with Jackson and Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary for the Army for the environment, to discuss Fort MeadeAca,!a,,cs environmental impact on surrounding communities.
The 91-year-old installation, which once served as a tank training ground and now hosts a variety of support units and intelligence organizations such as the National Security Agency, has become a source of controversy over its impact on the environment.
Since 1998, Fort Meade has been a Superfund site. The Department of the Army, EPA and Maryland have identified roughly 14 sites that could pose an environmental concern on the installation along with three sites on land given to the nearby Patuxent Research Refuge, according to the EPA. These sites have chemicals, ordnance or other items requiring remediation, in some cases dating back to World War I or II, officials said.
Cardin, Sarbanes, Jackson, Thomas and other officials got a first-hand look at three sites of concern on post during a Aca,!A"windshieldAca,!A? bus tour following the EPA anniversary celebration.
As the group exited the bus after the tour, there was a general agreement on the need to work cooperatively. Cardin even complimented the Army on the attention it has given to environmental issues.
Discussion between Army leaders and federal officials focused on the ArmyAca,!a,,cs current work to contain environmental pollutants to the EPAAca,!a,,cs satisfaction.
One example of the Army working with other agencies is the upcoming testing of well water in the Odenton area due to concerns about potential contamination of deep-water aquifers. About 2,800 residents in nearby Odenton were notified about the testing which will begin later this month. The first public meeting about the testing is scheduled for April 20 in Gambrills, Md.
The installation is also negotiating with EPA and other organizations on a new framework for its cleanup efforts, known as a Federal Facilities Agreement.
Multiple officials, including Cardin and Sarbanes, also stated their hope that the parties involved would sign the FFA by early summer.
Aca,!A"It would be very good if itAca,!a,,cs completed in June,Aca,!A? Cardin said at a meeting following the tour.
Once the installation has finalized its environmental remediation plan, most of the major work should be completed by 2012, Cardin said.
While it will take more time to clean up past environmental damage, the installation is working to improve itself, Thomas said.
Aca,!A"We will be better when this process is done,Aca,!A? he said.
(Alan J. McCombs writes for the Soundoff! newspaper at Fort Meade, Md.)