Press Release

March 5, 2012
Senators Call for Moving Ahead with Remediation Efforts to Alleviate Concerns about Public Health

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) today called the National Academy of Science (NAS) Committee on Toxicology’s year-long review of past Area B studies “insightful and informative” and called for moving quickly with remediation of contaminants to alleviate health concerns of area residents. 

“The NAS review provides credible and objective evaluation of the science used to determine the impact of previous activities at Fort Detrick on public health.  Area B has been designated a Superfund site under the National Priorities List (NPL) since 2009, and I believe that the most important step we can take right now is to move forward as quickly as possible with remediation efforts to ensure the health and safety of Fort Detrick area residents and its workforce,” said Senator Cardin.  

“I applaud the National Academy of Science review of recent public health assessment studies and their expertise in providing an independent and reliable scientific based analysis,” Senator Mikulski said.  “The community has long expressed serious concerns about the potential public health impacts associated with past environmental contamination at Ft. Detrick and deserve the best information and analysis available.   Efforts to clean up the Area B landfill must be accelerated and must be aggressive.  And throughout the process, people’s voices must be heard. I urge full support of the NAS recommendation for more public engagement, not just with health reviews, but with the landfill restoration and the EPA clean-up efforts to improve public trust in the process.”

The NAS reviewed reports and studies conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH), the Frederick County Health Department (FCHD) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to help determine if the studies are “scientifically and methodologically rigorous, robust and sufficient to address concerns about potential illness.” The NAS report gave generally high marks to the MDHMH and the FCHD for their investigation and cancer cluster analysis.

From 1943 to 1969, Fort Detrick was the nation’s center for offensive and defensive biological warfare research. Area B was contaminated with biological waste, testing materials, and chemical and herbicidal waste, and in April 2009 it was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Priorities List.   In December 2010, Senator Cardin announced that a Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) had been signed by Fort Detrick, the U.S. Department of Defense and the EPA, paving the way for a permanent clean up Area B and the affected areas near Fort Detrick.

The federal facilities agreement assures that EPA will set final cleanup levels and have complete oversight of the Army’s cleanup operations at the installation. EPA can also insist that cleanup operations can be expanded if scientifically required. The NAS report noted that the superfund listing can be an important boost to community concerns because it assures third-party oversight of the cleanup and can provide an important new venue to get timely and accurate information to residents.