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Fort Detrick Area B Groundwater

Current Site Information

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Maryland

EPA ID# MDD985397249

6th Congressional District Congressional District

Last Update: February 2013

Other Names

None

Current Site Status

Fort Detrick Area B Groundwater (Fort Detrick) was proposed to the National Priorities List (NPL) on September 3, 2008 as part of the NPL Proposed Rule #49 (73 FR 51393). Four Source Areas were identified at Fort Detrick in the NPL proposal including: (1) Chemical Waste Disposal Pits - Area B-11; (2) Area B-2 Landfill; (3) Area B-Grid and (4) Area B-20 South Burn Area. Other possible source areas identified in the NPL proposal narrative include 30 additional areas that require investigation. Fort Detrick Area B Groundwater was finalized on the NPL on Thursday, April 9, 2009 as part of the NPL Final Rule #46. A Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) between the U.S. Army (Army) and EPA-Region III was signed on December 17, 2010. The FFA describes the procedures under which the Army, MDE, and the EPA will investigate and, if necessary, remediate sites at Fort Detrick in accordance with CERCLA. Pending review of public comments, the FFA will be made effective by Autumn 2011. No Records of Decision (RODs) have been jointly signed by the EPA and the Army to date at Fort Detrick. A ROD is the official document that establishes how each site will be remediated.

Site Description

Fort Detrick is an active U.S. Army Installation operated under the Army Medical Command (MEDCOM), in Frederick, Maryland. Fort Detrick is located within the city limits of Frederick and is surrounded by residential areas and county-owned land.

Fort Detrick consists of three non-contiguous tracts of land designated as Areas A, B, and
C. Area B is the only area of Fort Detrick that is currently on the NPL. Area B occupies approximately 399 acres. Initially, Area B was established as a proving ground in the Army's Biological Warfare program. Later, Area B was used as a disposal area for chemical, biological, and radiological (CBR) material and until 1970 for biological experimentation.

Area B has been the primary location of waste management activities for Fort Detrick and is the location of an active municipal landfill, animal farm, former skeet range, former explosives storage area, and former waste disposal/test areas associated with former research activities. In the late 1940s, the Special Operations Group of Fort Detrick installed a test grid in Area B to test both live and simulant biological warfare (BW) materials. A list of the live agent materials used in Area B is not available, but it is known that simulant materials used included Bacillus globigii, Serratia marcescens, and Escherichia coli. Test animals were buried in trenches or pits located in Area B after autoclave sterilization. Many types of munitions were tested on the grid in Area B. A residential community is located within 100 feet of the Area B disposal areas.

Anthrax was buried in Area B. In addition, radiological tracer materials were reportedly buried at three locations in Area B, including radioactive carbon, sulfur, and phosphorous. Two cylinders marked "Phosgene" were also reportedly buried in Area B. Phosgene is considered a lethal chemical agent.

In 1970 and 1971, after the United States outlawed biological research for offensive operations, and a decontamination program was initiated for Fort Detrick. Decontamination procedures for residual biological/chemical research materials included autoclave steam sterilization and incineration. Incineration ash was tilled into soil in the northwestern corner of Area B (Pit 13). Research buildings and equipment were also decontaminated, and an extensive wipe sampling program was completed after decontamination. In addition, sewage drainage lines were cut and capped, and drainage systems were filled with hypochlorite solution where possible.

In 1977, severe soil erosion exposed buried scrap materials and created several deep cavities in Area B. The areas were subsequently covered with soil.

In June 2004, the Army performed a removal action at Area B-11, an Area B chemical disposal area. Removal activities included the removal of contaminated soil, chemical containers, compressed gas cylinders, and laboratory waste. The discovery of live pathogens in medical wastes at Area B-11 caused suspension of all intrusive work at the disposal area, and waste remains buried at Area B-11.

Since 1999, quarterly ground water sampling has been conducted in and south of Area B
11. Ground water sampling activities include monitoring wells and drinking water wells along the southern facility boundary of Area B. The volatile organic compounds (VOC) trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE) are the major chemical constituents detected in ground water. Additionally, TCE also was detected in a residential well located on the southern portion of Shookstown Road. Therefore, groundwater contamination may extend off site to residential wells.

Most of the drinking water wells in close proximity to Fort Detrick have been closed, and residents are provided with public water or bottled water. Fort Detrick provides residents not connected to the public water supply with bottled water. In 1992, ground water samples collected from six drinking water wells contained concentrations of TCE above the cancer risk screening concentration or at concentrations meeting the criteria for documenting Level I actual contamination. One of these wells contained TCE and PCE concentrations above their respective MCLs; and another contained TCE concentrations above the MCL. In September 2005, two ground water samples collected from residential wells contained TCE or PCE at concentrations meeting the criteria for documenting Level I actual contamination.

The southwestern portion of Area B contains three known chemical waste disposal pits (Pits 1, 3, and 4), one suspected chemical waste disposal pit (Pit 2), and one ash disposal pit. Area B-11, also known as Pit 11, is reported to have received various types of waste chemicals from Fort Detrick, the National Bureau of Standards, and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 1955 to 1970. Reportedly, eight 55-gallon drums of TCE were disposed of in Pit 1. Wastes disposed of in the pits included metals, wood, general waste from laboratory modifications and building demolition, refuse from housing and animal farm operations, acids and chemicals, incinerated medical waste, waste herbicides and insecticides, phosgene, and animals potentially contaminated by anthrax.

Area B-11 is underlain by solution-weathered limestone of the Frederick Formation, a karst formation aquifer. Solution features such as voids were identified in Area B-11 during the installation of monitoring wells. The voids are 10 to 87 feet long and were encountered with the greatest concentration in the first 100 feet of drilling. Drilling in Area B-11 revealed that bedrock is located at 32 to 33 feet below ground surface (bgs). The nature of karst conditions in Area B-11 increases the probability of releases to ground water from wastes disposed of in Area B-11. Wastes may have been disposed of directly into karst solution cavities (voids) resulting in possible ground water contamination.

Site Responsibility

Fort Detrick is being addressed through Federal actions.

NPL Listing History

Fort Detrick was proposed to the NPL on September 3, 2008. {Proposed Rule #49 (73 FR 51393)}. Fort Detrick was finalized on the NPL on April 9, 2009. {Final Rule # 46}.

Threats and Contaminants

The sampling results collected from the four sources currently identified at Fort Detrick indicate groundwater contamination including trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE) above EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant levels.

Cleanup Progress

Currently, the U.S. Army, the State of Maryland, and EPA-Region III are developing a Conceptual Site Model which adequately captures the complex nature of the karst formations underlying Area B. An investigation is underway to help in the understanding of these karst formations which will aid in predicting where groundwater is flowing at Area B. Two separate sampling events by the Army are scheduled to occur between 2011 to 2013, to include groundwater, surface water, and sediment. Additionally, a vapor intrusion study is underway to evaluate the potential for vapor intrusion associated with the groundwater contaminant plume migration off Area B.

Additionally, because of public concern over the possible testing of Agent Orange at Area B of Fort Detrick, the Army finalized an initial sampling and analysis plan for herbicides and dioxins in soils in early 2012. The sampling has been completed and a draft report is expected by late 2012/early 2013.

Contacts

Site Contacts

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Superfund |EPA Home | EPA Superfund Homepage


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