BALTIMORE, MD (August 19, 2010) – The following is a joint statement from Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Deputy Secretary Frances B. Phillips:
The environmental contamination at Fort Detrick must be cleaned up, and we are taking related concerns about possible health impacts seriously. The Frederick County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), are working on the necessary actions to be taken by the Army in investigating and remediating the environmental concerns. The environmental investigation and clean-up of Fort Detrick are overseen by the EPA, with the support of MDE.
The involved agencies are in ongoing communication with the Kristen Renee Foundation, which asserts that some people who lived nearby developed cancers because of Fort Detrick and that independent testing shows evidence of dioxins/Agent Orange that could be linked to the cancers.
We understand the serious questions and concerns that remain, particularly when a loved one’s health is at stake.
Frederick County Health Department held a public meeting on August 12, 2010, about this topic, and additional meetings are planned, to hear and address questions and to gather information. At the same time, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is reviewing available data from the Maryland Cancer Registry to assess numbers and types of cancers for the area immediately surrounding Fort Detrick and compare them with cancer rates for Frederick County and the state as a whole. DHMH and the Frederick County Health Department will review these data from the Registry, and any additional information provided by the public, to determine further steps in the investigation.
EPA and MDE have requested that Fort Detrick undertake sampling for constituents of Agent Orange. This is in addition to a series of on-going requirements for sampling and investigation required under federal and state law.
Fort Detrick served from 1943 through 1969 as the Nation’s center for offensive and biological warfare research. Defensive biological warfare research is active at the installation today. A number of environmental studies conducted over the years revealed contaminated groundwater near the Fort’s “Area B.” Residences with individual drinking water wells that had the potential to be affected by groundwater contamination were provided bottled water and later connected to the local public water supply. To accelerate the investigation and cleanup, in 2008 MDE requested that Area B of Fort Detrick be promptly placed on the National Priorities List, also known as the Superfund list. In 2009, EPA did so.
Since that time, EPA has been overseeing the cleanup at Fort Detrick, with full support and assistance from MDE, with progress continuing to be made. A long-term sampling program has been implemented at Area B to properly characterize the groundwater and determine what, if any, treatment system may be necessary. MDE, EPA, and the Army are holding technical meetings to discuss the appropriate methods for investigating groundwater contamination at Area B, and a final work plan for the next phase of the investigation is in the final stages of development. Recently, Fort Detrick announced that it had completed capping the landfill at Area B.
We encourage anyone with relevant information to share it with the Frederick County Health Department by sending an e-mail to CancerInvestigation@FrederickCountyMD.gov or by calling 301-600-7400.
The Frederick County Health Department plans to convene a series of community meetings to respond to public comments and questions and to provide an opportunity for subject matter experts to discuss what is known and what is planned as it relates to the health and environmental concerns related to Fort Detrick. The meetings will be held the first Thursday of the month in Winchester Hall, 12 East Church Street, Frederick, Maryland, at 6:30 p.m. All meetings are broadcast live on Frederick County Government TV (Channel 19) and via webcast on www.frederickcountymd.gov/video. For those unable to attend, meetings are archived for viewing on the webcasting page.
For more information:
MDE fact sheet on Fort Detrick cleanup: http://www.mde.maryland.gov/assets/document/brownfields/fort_detrick.pdf
Frederick County Health Department’s Cancer Cluster Investigation web page: http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/CancerInvestigation