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Fort Detrick finishes work capping Area B landfills
Originally published July 16, 2010

By Megan Eckstein

Fort Detrick announced Thursday it had finished capping decades-old landfills on its sprawling Area B off Rosemont Avenue, a project started after some of the landfills contaminated groundwater in 1992.

The project had been slated for completion last November, but bad weather significantly hindered the final stages of the capping project. Workers finished placing the impermeable layer by the end of January and had begun adding several layers of dirt, but the snow made it difficult to get the dirt in place and sloped at the required angles.

Now that grass is growing on top of the landfill caps, the $6 million project is complete, Fort Detrick officials said. The impermeable layer in the middle of the landfill caps prevents rainwater from seeping through potentially contaminated waste and spreading more chemicals into the groundwater.

Overall, the Army spent $43 million to clean Area B after groundwater nearby was found to contain PCEs and TCEs, chemicals often found in industrial materials such as dry cleaning fluids and degreasers. The contamination spread to several residential wells, forcing Fort Detrick to connect those residents to other water supply lines or provide them with bottled water.

The Army has cleaned 42 of the 43 sites of contamination, as identified by the Environmental Protection Agency. The last requirement is to continue monitoring groundwater to fill in data gaps and make sure the contamination levels continue to drop.

"Fort Detrick will continue to monitor the site as long as the landfill exists, will comply with federal and state regulations, and conduct periodic reviews to ensure that the installation remains protective of the community and environment," a Fort Detrick news release said.

Fort Detrick officials have considered putting solar panels on top of the landfill caps, which look like a sprawling field now that they are completed. Officials have not reached a final decision on the matter, but they said the photovoltaic farm would help the Army post become more energy independent without compromising the integrity of the landfill caps. The topic may come up at July 26 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, formed in 1992 to provide community input about the cleanup efforts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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