WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have signed a binding agreement that will govern the cleanup at the Superfund sites that are located at Andrews Air Force Base, now formally known as Joint Base Andrews.
The document, officially known as a “federal facility agreement,” ensures that clean-up actions proceed with EPA oversight within an enforceable framework, in a manner that protects the community and the environment. The agreement will also give the EPA and the Air Force the framework for investigating new and evolving contamination at the base as it is discovered.
The agreement lists 13 contaminated sites on the base, as well as six additional munitions sites that require investigation and cleanup. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, governs the cleanup of the nation’s most contaminated lands.
“For more than a decade, a number of Department of Defense facilities around the country refused to sign mandatory cleanup agreements with EPA, as required by the Superfund law,” said, Senator Cardin, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “With today’s agreement, all of these facilities in Maryland now have enforceable clean-up agreements in place, recognizing EPA’s role as ultimate arbiter of clean-up standards. That’s good news for the military personnel who work on base as well as the Prince George’s County residents who live nearby.”
The Air Force, EPA, Maryland Department of the Environment, and Prince George’s County Health Department have been working on the clean-up effort since the site was place on the Superfund list in 1999. By 2001, the groups had identified 73 sites on the base to be investigated under Superfund. Efforts to sign the mandatory clean-up agreement, however, were blocked during the Bush Administration.
At Senator Cardin’s request, on September 18, 2008, the Environment and Public Works Committee held an oversight hearing on cleanups at federal facilities under the Superfund law. At the hearing, Senator Cardin pressed the Department of Defense to address the outstanding cleanups in Maryland, including those at Fort George G. Meade (in Anne Arundel County), Fort Detrick (in Frederick), and Andrews Air Force Base. Senator Cardin later brought EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson together with top Defense officials for a special meeting at Fort Meade to resolve the impasse. The federal facilities agreement for Fort Meade was signed shortly thereafter, as was the agreement governing the cleanup at Fort Detrick. With the addition today of Andrews, all military installations in Maryland with Superfund cleanups underway are operating under the mandatory agreements.
While numerous clean-up tasks have been performed at Andrews over the years, a number of disputes arose among the parties about clean-up levels and related matters. Without an agreement in place, several of those disputes were unresolved.
Lead and numerous semi-volatile organic compounds have been detected at significantly elevated concentrations in Piscataway Creek, which runs through the base. Among the contaminants found on the base are mercury, chromium and cadmium, all considered toxic metals. In addition, volatile organic compounds, such as TCE, and a number of semi-volatile organic compounds have also been detected. Many of these substances are known or suspected of causing cancer.
The base, which has been in operation since the 1940s, occupies 4,360 acres in Camp Springs, Prince George’s County. It is home to the 89th Airwing and provides airlift support operations for the President of the United States and is home to Air Force One. The base has a number of landfills, which are sources of suspected contamination. In addition, the spilled or otherwise released chemicals used in airplane hangars and to maintain sophisticated jets are also subjects of clean-up actions.