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Cancer questions

Originally published July 31, 2010

By Barry Kissin

"Area B" of Fort Detrick comprises 400 acres bordered by Shookstown Road, Kemp Lane and Rocky Springs Road. According to a statement in 2008 by the Environmental Protection Agency, Area B "was used as a disposal area for chemical, biological, and radiological material from the 1940s until 1970. Wastes disposed at the site released [carcinogenic chemicals] into the ground water, contaminating residential drinking water wells. There is the potential that the groundwater contamination could spread ... "

The "Fort Detrick Area B Ground Water Site" was placed by the EPA on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) in April 2009.

In explaining this decision, the EPA stated: "The aquifer underneath the Fort Detrick Area B Ground Water Site is among the most contaminated aquifers in the nation. ... To date, despite repeated State requests and a 1999 recommendation from the Army's own expert Advisory Panel, a thorough investigation of the nature and extent of contamination of ground water has not been completed. ... Area B is in close proximity to the drinking water supply for one of the most densely populated and growing areas of Frederick County. The lack of a completed investigation represents an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment."

The purpose of the NPL listing is to ensure that this risk is addressed "properly and promptly."

In 1992, a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) was created to oversee the cleanup of Area B. I became a community member of the RAB practically at the same time as Area B was placed on the NPL.

The most recent meeting of the RAB was this past Monday at Winchester Hall. Many more members of the public attended this meeting than ever before in the history of the RAB. They came with questions about the threat of cancer as well as about the cause of past and present cancers. It was evident that most of the attendees came as the result of being notified by the "Fighting for Frederick" campaign.



Fighting for Frederick is a project of the recently constituted Kristen Renee Foundation, named after Kristen Renee Hernandez-White, who in 2008 died from brain cancer at age 30. Kristen resided about a mile from Area B from 1995 to 2005. Her mother is now suffering from an advanced stage of cancer. Kristen's father, Randy White, is financing the Fighting for Frederick campaign.

One piece of this campaign's literature states: "After six weeks of research, we have counted 410 families who have been affected with cancer within a 4-mile radius [of Fort Detrick]."

The campaign's website asserts that "there are over 500 individual registered wells in the area around Fort Detrick."

We may never be able to determine the cause of past and present cancers experienced in the vicinity of Fort Detrick. But as I conclude this column, I want to highlight one thing that happened on Monday night. Col. Judith Robinson, commander of Fort Detrick, announced that the Army will test, for all of the potential contaminants, any and all wells in the vicinity of Fort Detrick on behalf of anyone who wishes to have their well tested.

I urge people to accept this offer. Such testing could significantly contribute toward answering some of the cancer questions. It will also contribute toward the fulfillment of the RAB's mission of determining and curtailing whatever is the current threat.

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