Fort Ritchie awaits impact report
The story: Agent Orange was among the herbicides tested at the former Fort Ritchie Army base in 1963, according to U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs documents that surfaced in February.
The update: A report on the herbicide testing found little chance that harmful chemicals remain.
A report on the testing of Agent Orange and other herbicides at Fort Ritchie found that it is very unlikely that there are any harmful chemicals remaining at the site, Army Environmental Attorney David Howlett said.
However, redevelopment of the former U.S. Army base remains stalled as work continues on a supplemental environmental impact statement about the proposed development, Howlett said.
When that statement is finished, the next step will be to provide a draft of it for public review, he said. Howlett said he hopes that will happen in the spring.
The base, near Cascade, was closed in 1998 and had been transferred to Columbia, Md.-based Corporate Office Properties Trust, which planned a development including 1.7 million square feet of office space, and 673 homes and apartments.
A judge ordered that the project be put on hold in late 2009 because of a lawsuit filed over the project’s environmental impact.
The history of herbicide testing at Fort Ritchie, which came to light in February, further delayed the project and prompted COPT to notify investors that it does not expect to recover its $28 million investment in the property.
Based on a re-evaluation of the property’s development prospects, COPT wrote Fort Ritchie’s value down to zero, according to a March 31 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing and a statement issued by the company.
Meanwhile, the Army hired an expert consultant to write a report on the impact of the testing, Howlett said. That report was issued May 27 by A.L. Young Consulting Inc.
The report found that 2,4,5-T and TCDD — the harmful chemicals in Agent Orange — “would have dried ... within minutes of being sprayed,” and that studies elsewhere suggest that “neither the TCDD nor the phenoxy herbicides posed any hazard associated with their spraying at Fort Ritchie.”
The report also notes that monitoring for chlorinated pesticides in surface water conducted at Fort Ritchie in 1972 would have detected any significant levels of 2,4,5-T herbicide, but nothing was found.
— Heather Keels
Airport still seeking carrier
The story: In June, Direct Air began offering twice-weekly flights between Hagerstown and Lakeland, Fla., with stops in Myrtle Beach, S.C., but the company ended the service less than two months later.
The update: Hagerstown Regional Airport officials are pursuing other carriers.
Hagerstown Regional Airport officials are continuing to seek a carrier to provide the type of destination-oriented air service provided briefly by Direct Air, Washington County spokeswoman Sarah Lankford Sprecher said.
“Right now, we have not had any discussions with Direct Air, but we are pursuing other carriers,” she said. “In light of time, there probably wouldn’t be anything established until, at the earliest, fall 2012.”
Direct Air ended its flights between Hagerstown and Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Lakeland, Fla., on Aug. 21, less than two months after they began.
When Direct Air first announced its decision to end the flights, Ed Warneck, a managing partner for Direct Air, said the airline had decided that Hagerstown could be a good “seasonal market” and he hoped to resume service in the spring. Both Warneck and airport officials said initially that they hoped to begin discussions around November about bringing Direct Air back to Hagerstown in the spring.
Greg Larsen, the county’s airport business development manager, said in August that the airport already had started to reach out to some of the other operators it was talking to before landing Direct Air.
— Heather Keels
Shelter battled parvovirus
The story: Canine parvovirus was discovered at the Humane Society of Washington County shelter in September.
The update: The disease was tackled immediately, came back slightly in September, but was again eradicated.
Months after 10 dogs died in an outbreak of canine parvovirus at the Humane Society of Washington County, a shelter representative said it is free of the disease.
Katherine Cooker, spokeswoman for the humane society, said the disease came back slightly after shelter employees took immediate precautions to eradicate the disease in September, but it went away again.
“We have not had a case in some time,” she said Dec. 15.
Parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is a contagious and potentially fatal canine disease that is transmitted by direct exposure to feces containing the virus or through contact with an affected animal. The disease can survive on inanimate objects such as clothing, food pans and kennels, so exposure to anything that has come into contact with the virus can potentially spread the disease.
A dog that has contracted the disease usually will exhibit extreme diarrhea that is frequently bloody and foul smelling, vomiting and lethargy, and will become dehydrated. If untreated, the disease is frequently fatal.
Dogs younger than 6 months, and older frail dogs are the most susceptible to contracting parvo.
Cooker said the humane society in October established its Animal Health Voucher program, which is available to Washington County residents who are receiving public assistance, including food stamps, medical assistance, cash assistance, Social Security or disability assistance.
Vouchers are good for up to $75 and are to be used to cover the cost of an exam by a Washington County veterinarian and for the vaccination that includes DHLPP (distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvovirus), rabies and bordetella for dogs. The voucher also covers vaccinations for cats.
All expenses exceeding $75 are the owner’s responsibility, according to information from the humane society.
— Kate Alexander