Public input sought at meeting about Fort Ritchie cleanup

November 07, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |

Officials solicited public input Monday on the cleanup of munitions and groundwater contamination at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a five-year review of the remedies set for removing contaminates from groundwater at the area known as the motorpool, and for removing unexploded ordnance from the former base.

A review of the remedies is required every five years until the former base is released for unrestricted use, said Joseph Pearson, the Army Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) environmental coordinator at Fort Ritchie with Calibre Systems Inc.

The public was invited Monday to the Fort Ritchie Community Center for its input on the remedies, which included monitoring treated groundwater near the motorpool for levels of PCE, or tetrachloroethylene, and the use of metal detectors to identify unexploded munitions for removal from the ground.

About 30 people attended the meeting.

Between 2002 and 2004, the Army treated the groundwater near the motorpool in an effort to reduce the level of contaminants. It has been monitoring the water and restricting access to the building and the water over the past five years.

Despite treatment of the groundwater, levels of PCE have rebounded in the past five years, said Alex Smith, project manager with The Shaw Group. A rebound is not unusual, he said, but it is not what project managers would have liked to have seen.

The public questioned the monitoring efforts, specifically if the contaminated area has, by chance, increased. Smith said they do not believe it has.

Chris Boes, project manager with Cabrera Services, said that since the Army started digging for unexploded ordnance, 365 pieces have been found, along with 597 inert items.

Most areas of the base were excavated to about 4 feet, while about 104 acres on the mountainside were cleared to about 1 foot deep, he said.

Once complete, a formal draft of the review will be submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the end of 2011, wherein conclusions on the effectiveness of the remedies and possible changes or recommendations will be laid out, Pearson said.

After MDE and EPA comment on the review, it will be finalized and signed.

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