The development of a decomissioned missile base in Gaithersburg is causing concern for a local community organization.
According to the Mid-County Citizens’ Alliance, toxic chemicals may be present on the 14-acre site on Snouffer School Road. The area was used as a Nike missile launch site from the late 1950s to early 1960s, with the missiles resting in silos underground. The site, decommissioned decades ago, currently has overgrown vegetation and some tree cover over the remaining silos.
Developer M&D Real Estate is seeking to turn the site into the “Reserve Business Center,” including an industrial warehouse, offices and about 300 parking spaces.
The Montgomery County Planning Department will meet on June 27 to discuss the developer’s plan for the site. The department has acknowledged the community’s opposition to its approval.
“Individual citizens have expressed concern that it is premature to authorize development of this property until all environmental and public health issues have been addressed and resolved,” according to county documents.
The citizens’ alliance is concerned that an underground storage tank may be unaccounted for, according to alliance member Terry O’Grady.
According to a report from the Maryland Department of the Environment, the site contained a 1,000-gallon underground storage tank in 1990, when the agency conducted a site investigation.
O’Grady said the Mid-County Citizens’ Alliance is not against the development of the site, but construction activities could unintentionally unearth toxic substances.
According to a fact sheet from the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Nike missiles were liquid-fueled and used nitric acid in addition to jet petroleum and synthetic rubber. The Mid-County Citizen’s Alliance is concerned that activities related to radar research in the 1960s and 1970s could have released polychlorinated biphenyl and chlorinated solvents into the environment, while the demolition of the missile silos could uncover asbestos or lead.
The Gazette was unable to reach a representative for M&D Real Estate before press time, but the developer has submitted an application to the Maryland Department to the Environment to enroll the site in a voluntary cleanup program.
Once the program is complete, the state will be able to determine whether further cleanup will be needed for the site.