Army denied access to test Frederick housing site for contamination -- Gazette.Net







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Consultants for Fort Detrick are having trouble accessing properties to continue testing for possible groundwater contamination, including land designated for the construction of 732 homes.

The homes in the Waverly View development were approved by the city of Frederick in 2001, but have not yet been built.

The property, bordering Shookstown Road, abuts Area B, a 399-acre site formerly used as a dumping ground for chemical and biological waste that was named a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009.

Fort Detrick attorney Gary Zolyak said in an email that the property had “various legal issues” that made it difficult to get approvals from the owner to conduct groundwater testing.

Zolyak said a portion of the Waverly View property is next to B-11, a site within Area B that is reported to have received various types of waste chemicals from Fort Detrick, the National Bureau of Standards and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center between 1950 and 1970, according to the EPA’s website.

In 2004, the Army removed contaminated soil from B-11, but stopped when it discovered live pathogens in medical waste.

But the owner of Waverly View, Rocky Gorge Development based in McClean, Va., asked the city Streets and Sanitation Committee, which makes recommendations to the mayor and city Board of Aldermen, on July 3 to consider reducing road obligations that were part of the original approvals in 2001.

A spokesman for Rocky Gorge Development, who did not want to be named, said the timeline for the project is based on market conditions, but that the company is interested in moving forward now.

The site, annexed into the city in 1965, was approved for development in 2001, contingent on several road improvements to be made by the developer.

The Rocky Gorge Development spokesman said that the homes it plans to build will be connected to city water and sewer service instead of wells, and groundwater contamination will not be an issue. He declined to comment on why the company is denying access to the Army for further testing.

Bill Hudson, community involvement coordinator for the EPA, said when owners of properties near Superfund sites do not allow testing for contamination, it’s usually because “they are afraid we’ll find something.”

The EPA can assist the Army in helping owners understand why the testing is necessary. When property owners are informed, they will generally comply, but there is no legal mechanism to force testing access, Hudson said.

“The Justice Department is not even going to entertain any of these things. It’s not good to force it. It’s not good for the Army and it’s not good for the EPA.”