FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- If plans are approved, the excavation process of a dump site near Manor View Elementary School in early 2012 will begin to remove the organic material that has caused the formation of methane gas.

To educate the community and to gain public comments from the community on the project, members of the Directorate of Public Works held a public hearing Nov. 9 at the Manor View school. Experts in all aspects of the $2.5 million project were on hand to answer specific questions on the project.

"Transparency and communication with the community will be the key to success," Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein said.

The 10-acre site near the intersection of MacArthur Road and 2nd Corps Boulevard is the location that requires the removal of buried trash, which was found in 2003 during construction. Some of the items found there date back to the 1940s.

The natural decomposition of the material is currently creating methane -- an odorless and colorless gas that is nontoxic, but may be flammable or explosive under certain conditions. When the natural gas was initially discovered, methane monitors were installed.

At the same time, a temporary, landfill gas-migration control system was installed to prevent methane from spreading from the site. When it was discovered that the system wasn't capturing all of the methane, houses nearest to the site were evacuated in December 2005.

"The mitigation system addresses the symptom and not the cause," said Paul Fluck, program manager of DPW's Installation Restoration Program.

The new plan of excavating a one-acre section of the dump site was the topic of the public hearing. The section is 250 feet by 200 feet and 15 feet deep -- or the size of three Olympic-size swimming pools.

If approved, the excavation will be conducted in sections to release methane gas and remove the trash. Experts at the hearing said that once the methane is released from the ground, it will not linger. However, air control monitors will be installed around the site to track methane levels.

Nearly 400 truck loads of the material would be transported to a landfill off post.

After the excavation process is complete, residents would be able to live in the evacuated houses and the site would be restored to a useful state, said Fluck. While the restoration process is estimated to take about five weeks, there is no set time line for use again.

Most questions posed during the public hearing were related to how the project would affect daily living on post.

"I wanted to know what actual process is involved, what are the circumstances under which they felt everything needed to be excavated, and in this process, have they taken families with special needs children into consideration?" said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Denise France, who said her front door is less than 50 yards from the site's border.

France said Fluck and the subject-matter experts were both informative and up-front about the processes.

Fluck said the public hearing went well and experts were able to address concerns.

"This was a very successful public meeting," he said.

If you missed the Manor View public meeting, details of the plan will also be presented at the Restoration Advisory Board meeting today at 7 p.m. at the Captain Smathers Army Reserve Center on Route 175 (Annapolis Road).

Details of the plan are available for review at Follow the link for Installation Restoration, Program Sites and Manor View Dump Site.

Public comments must be postmarked by Nov. 30 and sent to Paul Fluck, U.S. Army Garrison, 2212 Chisholm Ave., suite 5115, Fort Meade, MD, 20755.