Request for well drilling, groundwater testing has been ignored
Originally published February 13, 2013, Frederick News Post
The federal government wants access to a residential development site near Fort Detrick's Area B to drill wells and complete groundwater testing.
In a letter obtained by The Frederick News-Post on Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that Rocky Gorge Development LLC has repeatedly ignored requests from the Army to gain access to monitor the 90-acre Shookstown Road property.
The development company was given one week to respond to the EPA directive. A company leader confirmed receiving the letter Monday.
"EPA believes the proposed work is necessary and appropriate to better understand the nature and extent of contamination migrating from the Fort Detrick Area B Superfund site, and to ensure the protection of human health and the environment," wrote Paul Leonard, associate director in the EPA Office of Federal Facility Remediation and Site Assessment, in the Feb. 8 letter....
According to the letter, the Army has repeatedly sought access to the property since March 2011. The Army wants to extend its groundwater testing by installing wells, the letter stated. The risk is there, according to Leonard's letter, that unsafe levels of chemicals could have leaked from Area B to the adjacent property set for development.
Chris Dorment, Rocky Gorge Development chairman, said his company has discussed the letter with an attorney and plans a quick response.
The development, also known as Waverley View, was before the Frederick Planning Commission on Monday night for slight changes to its master plan. Granted initial approval in 2001, the project has remained idle since then, but developers hope to move forward later this year, according to attorney Rand Weinberg.
"This project, after 11 years, is about to get off the ground," Weinberg said at the meeting.
The changes requested Monday night would modify infrastructure improvements, which the developer must complete before construction can begin. Rocky Gorge is looking to build 730 houses, townhouses and apartments on the property.
The meeting got contentious when residents living near the development site asked the city planning commission to put conditions on any approval that would require extensive testing before work could begin.
The board ultimately approved Rocky Gorge's request unanimously when staff said the scope of the request was too limited to consider the residents' concerns.
"Our hands are really tied," planning commission member Rick Stup said Monday night.
Jennifer Peppe Hahn, a member of the city's Fort Detrick Restoration Advisory Board, said it was incumbent upon the commission to take a stand.
"This is not about politics or a developer's rights," she said. "This is about setting protocol in an unprecedented situation to best suit the future health needs of our own community."
Dorment said Monday night that his company has done its own testing on the property. While he understood the residents' concerns, Dorment said he was confident building houses there would be safe.
"I like to think I have a conscience," Dorment said. "I would not want to proceed with any project that was going to cavalierly unleash that evil on other people."