2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 9 Aug 2003 00:41:35 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Community group at Aberdeen transforms itself
On July 20, 2003, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Aberdeen Proving
Ground Superfund Citizens Coalition (APGSCC), one of the nation's most
successfully public oversight groups at military facilities, was giving
up the U.S. EPA Technical Assistance Grant that the organization had
used effectively for the past decade.  APGSCC explained the
organization's transformation in the July, 2003 edition of its
newsletter, Coming Clean, and it outlined the unresolved issues facing
the community surrounding the Maryland base.

CPEO reprints the first two-thirds of that article with permission. The
remainder of the article describes "Unresolved Issues Specific to Study Areas."

Lenny Siegel


Aberdeen Proving Ground 
Superfund Citizens Coalition 
Community Update
July 2003

COMING CLEAN is published by the APGSCC, advocates for the citizens of
Harford, Baltimore, Cecil, Kent Counties, and Maryland.

APGSCC to Continue Work with U of Md, APG, and EPA

APGSCC will continue as a citizens group to ensure community
participation in the complex issues facing the cleanup process at APG.

For a decade, APGSCC has obtained funding through EPA Superfund grants
to help the community participate more effectively in the cleanup of
hazardous waste sites at APG and to help educate the public. We used
these funds to hire independent technical experts from the University of
Maryland (UofMd) to review Army documents and to help the community
better understand the complex site contamination problems and cleanup
solutions proposed by APG.

APGSCC has been very successful in changing the focus of the APG cleanup
program to include post boundary areas that have impacted public health
and critical drinking water resources.

One of our key accomplishments is meaningful participation in the
decision making process overall, this is evidenced by APG removing tons
of tainted soil and constructing a water treatment facility to remove
Army contamination from the Perryman wellfield wells.  This public
service was made possible by more than five thousand citizen volunteer
hours.  We have decided not to apply for a grant in the future, so we
can free up volunteer hours to focus on primary site contamination
issues (perchlorate, IC's,  censorship, UXO, Land Use) that we are
currently working on with APG, EPA and U ofMd.   

We are very pleased to inform the community that we will continue our
long working relationship with UofMd toxicologists and the Law Clinic. 
They will provide technical and legal assistance as we move forward with
our goals to ensure that public health and crucial environmental
resources are protected for future generations.

APGSCC Community Blueprint For Oversight of the Environmental Cleanup at
Aberdeen Proving Ground

For more than a decade, APGSCC has been very effective in focusing the
attention of the Army and the EPA on issues of concern to the community.
 Our approach has been to become involved as early as possible in the
investigation of an area so that we could help shape the definition of
the areas of concern and the approach to characterizing the problem. In
doing so, we could make sure that attention to community concerns is
incorporated at the outset of the investigation.  Due to these efforts,
the cleanup of highly contaminated Superfund sites at APG has been more
effective than it would have been without such participation.  But APG
is an extremely large and complex Superfund site so there are many
issues that have been highlighted by the community that have not been

The reasons for this are multifaceted. There are issues of cost, data
gaps that are confusing, as well as philosophical differences that lead
to disagreements over remediation plans. Many of the problems that we
have encountered over the years are due to the intransigence of the
Department of Defense (DoD), Army, or Army Environmental Center or are
the result the unwillingness or inability of the EPA to contradict the
DoD. There is an enormous amount of pressure on the APG Installation
Restoration Program to minimize costs and perhaps more importantly, to
avoid "setting an example" that will raise expectations and increase
costs at other facilities around the country.  


We firmly believe that many of these obstacles could be overcome if the
EPA were to take a strong position in support of a precautionary
approach to protecting human health and the environment. But ultimately
the EPA is governed by political appointees who reflect the philosophy
and judgements of the current president and his party, so when
disagreements are elevated to the highest levels, politics wins out. The
EPA justifies this approach by stating that the administration must
"speak with one voice". However, this approach ignores the vital
democratic need for a transparent debate of the issues. The EPA is
effectively blocking the democratic process in favor of the justifiably
discredited "decide and defend" approach to decision-making.

One lesson that we have learned by witnessing this process in action at
APG is that to ignore the political features of these issues is both
dangerous and na´ve, and puts us at a distinct disadvantage. After all,
the EPA and DoD are engaged in a highly sophisticated political venture.
If we exclude ourselves from this process, we will be prohibited from
full participation.  Unfortunately the TAG discourages, and in some
cases prohibits such participation, effectively handicapping community
groups from the outset. While there is a distinction between "lobbying",
which is prohibited, and discussing the political dimensions of these
problems with political leaders, the line between the two is not always
clear. The perceived threat of legal action against a community group
has a chilling effect on the willingness of individuals to legally
engage in the political issues. No group should feel that the only means
of action is silence if in disagreement with the reigning political
philosophy.  To be effectively prohibited from engaging in the political
dimension of these problems is unfortunate and inherently unjust,
because all of the other stakeholders are engaging in these discussions.

Two prominent examples of this are the perchlorate contamination in the
City of Aberdeen production wells, and the absence of an aggressive
unexploded ordnance (UXO) remediation policy. Perchlorate was released
into the environment during testing and training activities at APG and
it rapidly migrated into the shallow groundwater that is a source of
drinking water for thousands of people in the City of Aberdeen. Despite
a careful risk characterization conducted by the EPA (which relied in
part on research conducted by the Air Force), the DoD refuses to
acknowledge the potential health risks of the consumption of perchlorate
in the drinking water. Much of the debate is taking place behind closed
doors and involves the DoD and their contractors, who are responsible
for the contamination, but excludes those who are affected by the
contamination. The EPA appears to have been greatly marginalized and
ignored in this debate, hence we are left with the feeling that our
needs and concerns are totally unrepresented.

The debate over what to do about UXO has been ongoing for years. We have
watched while the DoD succeeded in defining away the problem with the
release of the EPA's Military Munitions Rule, a laundry list of
exemptions from responsibility to remediate UXO.  Although UXO anywhere
is a risk and a hazard, it is only considered to be "waste" if it has
been removed from its landing spot and discarded as waste. If it is not
waste, it cannot be addressed under CERCLA Superfund and the EPA has no
jurisdiction.  The DoD can therefore spend millions of dollars to remove
chemical contamination from a site, while leaving any residual UXO in
place.  From the EPA perspective, the site cleanup is complete, despite
the fact that UXO remain, along with the risks and hazards.


The following outline contains a brief discussion of the major issues
that we have identified over the years that remain unresolved or
un-addressed. We do not have the time to go into the details on these
issues, however more information can be obtained in the APGSCC TAG Close
Out Report, which also lists the background documents and summaries that
have helped to frame this outline.


Perryman and Aberdeen Well Fields

The most abundant drinking water resources in Harford County lie beneath
Aberdeen Proving Ground. This is unfortunate because Army activities
continue to threaten these important natural resources. There are two
well fields that straddle the base boundary. The Perryman well field is
contaminated with TCE from historic activities.  The TCE came from a
former fire training area. While the contaminated soil has been removed,
the TCE remains in the groundwater. Explosive chemicals are periodically
detected in monitoring wells and one of the production wells.  The exact
source of the explosives has not been determined, but it could be from
anywhere since UXO are everywhere throughout the area.  The
contamination in the Perryman well field is being removed by carbon
filtration. The temporary water treatment plant is in the process of
being replaced by a larger permanent plant.

The City of Aberdeen well field is contaminated with perchlorate from
historical as well as recent training activities. Perchlorate has been
found in nearly all of the wells and is known to have migrated off-post.
Although the DoD prohibits APG from taking specific action to remediate
the perchlorate contamination, several interim steps have been taken.
The perchlorate contamination has been delineated and the production
wells are being sampled weekly.  Activities that are known to result in
the release of perchlorate have ceased (in the vicinity of the Aberdeen
well field) to prevent additional contamination.

APGSCC has made it very clear that we expect APG to address the
perchlorate contamination. We have been told by EPA that action will be
taken, although no one has specified what this means.

Finally, we are waiting on the development and implementation APG's
proposed well head protection plan. This is something that we have
recommended for years. A well head protection plan should restrict
activities that could result in the release of chemical contaminants in
the well head recharge zones. By prohibiting or limiting such activities
APG will reduce the likelihood of introducing additional contamination
into the well fields.

Unresolved Issues:

1. Progress on the construction of the new treatment plant for the
Perryman well field should be monitored.

2. Routine groundwater monitoring reports for the Perryman well field
should be reviewed to make sure that the water treatment plant captures
the groundwater contamination.

3. The perchlorate contamination in the City of Aberdeen well field must
be addressed. We continue to recommend the installation of ion exchange
resins on the wells with the highest levels of perchlorate. This will be
the cheapest and easiest solution for the problem at APG.

4. It is imperative that APG implement a strong, effective well head
protection plan to prevent additional contamination from reaching these
important groundwater resources.

Boundary Buffer Zone 

For many years APGSCC has requested that APG designate a strip of land
along the entire base (land) boundary to be preserved as a buffer zone
between the off-post community and the active ranges. Our vision is that
this strip of land would be cleaned up so that it is free of UXO and
chemical contamination.  While some at APG have expressed support for
this concept, there appear to be significant obstacles to its

One step that we took was to request that the EPA conduct a study of
historical aerial photographs of the base boundary in order to help
identify suspect or problem areas. This will help us to prioritize the
cleanup of the base boundary. 

EPA will soon make a formal request that APG conduct a survey to detect
metallic anomalies along the Aberdeen Area boundary - both on- and
off-post. This will provide us with some basic information regarding the
location and density of metallic anomalies, which may represent UXO.
Based on this information, in combination with the aerial photographs,
we can determine where additional, more detailed surveys are needed. 

Unresolved Issues:

1. The community will need to evaluate the results of the surveys and
discuss response options with APG and the EPA.

2. Since we have no guarantee that future activities that could harm the
environment or present a risk to human health will be prohibited from
the boundary buffer zone, we will need to continue the dialogue with APG
regarding appropriate land uses in the boundary buffer zone area.

Land Use Controls, Institutional Controls, Five Year Reviews and Long
Term Oversight 

While it is best to remove contamination and hazards from a site so that
the site is safe for any use, this is often not possible for economic or
technical reasons. At APG, for instance, chemical contamination cleanup
may be approached in such a way that a site is safe for industrial use
but not for residential use. Even when chemical contamination is removed
to permit unlimited use, the likely presence of UXO may prevent site
access. It is important that APG be clear that UXO remain an unresolved problem.

When waste is left in place, institutional and land use controls are
required to prevent unacceptable human exposures.  Institutional
controls are generally thought of as legal and regulatory mechanisms
restricting land use. Examples of institutional controls include deed
restrictions, and requirements to get permission before drilling a well.
Land use controls are restrictions on how land may be used, for instance
a prohibition on residential use.  These are extremely important
concepts, because institutional and land use controls can be difficult
to implement. At APG for instance it is nearly impossible to prevent
trespassers from accessing the shoreline. With over 100 miles of
shoreline, adequate policing is just not available.

It is therefore imperative that community stakeholders play a prominent
role in the process of critical evaluation, implementation and oversight
of the management of these residual risks and hazards. Community input
is required not only in the development of appropriate institutional and
land use controls, which is feasible during the selection of remedial
actions, but for long-term oversight of the implementation of
institutional and land use controls. There is currently no mechanism for
such long-term oversight.  

Related issues are that of Five Year Reviews and Annual Certification.
Every five years, APG must conduct a review of remedial actions and
evaluate whether they continue to be protective of human health and the
environment. Some remedial actions require annual certification. It is
imperative that a mechanism be developed to incorporate the community 
into this oversight, and these responsibilities can and should be
bundled into that of the long-term oversight of land use and
institutional controls.

Unresolved Issues:

1. There is currently no plan for the inclusion of concerned and
interested citizens in the long-term oversight of institutional
controls. There needs to be a better-organized effort of oversight,
including institutional controls as well as five-year reviews, and
annual certifications. This could be accomplished through the
Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) itself, but we would recommend that the
RAB establish a subcommittee to focus on these issues.

2. There has yet to be a clearly articulated approach to the integration
of site-specific institutional controls with the more general
facility-wide institutional controls.  Site-specific controls are
governed by clear regulations and guidance for selection, implementation
and criteria for release.  Facility-wide institutional controls are not
designed to address specific toxic wastes that have been left in place
precluding unlimited use and unrestricted exposure. The integration of
site-specific and facility-wide institutional controls must be
accomplished in order to increase the effectiveness of institutional controls.

3. APGSCC discourages any land transfers or joint use land agreements.
The risk of UXO and toxic waste dumps make these ventures very dangerous.

UXO and CWM Issues

APG has recovered hundreds if not thousands of UXO. Unfortunately, there
are millions of UXO that remain both on land and in the water
surrounding APG. Some of these UXO contain chemical agents.  There are
technical as well as economic reasons, which limit the recovery of UXO. 

APGSCC supports the aggressive policing of the APG shoreline to identify
and remove UXO where the community (specifically, boaters) is most
likely to encounter them.  Our concerns for UXO tie directly to our
recommendations for a safe boundary buffer zone and the development and
implementation of effective institutional and land use controls with
community oversight.

A related concern is the destruction of UXO by open detonation (OD) and
the destruction of excess propellants by open burning (OB). These
methods of destruction release contaminants into the environment and we
are not convinced that attempts to reduce or contain contaminant release
are adequate.  Millions of dollars have been spent to develop
alternatives to OB/OD. It is time to make a full transition to the use
of alternative destruction and disposal methods. The State of Maryland
is in the process of finalizing the interim RCRA permit that governs the
OB/OD sites at APG. The community should make sure that they voice their
concerns during the public comment period of the RCRA permit process.

Unresolved Issues:

1. The search for and removal of UXO and chemical warfare materiel (CWM)
along the APG boundary and shorelines must be accomplished to protect
the off-post community. These are the areas where the local community is
most likely to encounter UXO/CWM. This initiative must be aggressive and persistent.

2. The open burning of propellants, which are a source of perchlorate,
must cease immediately. Similarly, the open detonation of UXO should be ended.

3. APGSCC should take the opportunity to comment on the RCRA open
burning and open detonation permit when the opportunity arises.

4. EPA should encourage states to adopt CERCLA models of public
participation for more effective citizen involvement. In RCRA oversight.
The current model, which only permits public comment at the end of the
RCRA permit process, is clearly inadequate.

Biological Warfare Agents 

APG was historically the site of tests using biological warfare agents
and simulants.  This is and has been a significant concern for the
community. APGSCC has repeatedly requested more detailed information
regarding the location of these testing activities, and was successful
in triggering a survey of these activities and test sites by APG.
Unfortunately, the Army has declined to release any of this information
to the community, or to answer our most general questions regarding the
location of any areas that might merit additional sampling.  We have
been told by APG that of all the biological agents that may have been
tested at APG, only anthrax would remain viable after decades in the
environment.  We have not been given any documentation to corroborate
this assertion. 

Unresolved Issues:

1. Despite repeated requests, APG refuses to provide additional
information regarding the results of the historical document research on
the testing of biological warfare agents at APG.

2. It is not clear if APG is implementing precautionary testing for the
presence of anthrax throughout the Other Edgewood Areas, or only in
select locations.

Radioactive Waste and Depleted Uranium Concerns 

Radioactive wastes are generated by testing training exercises, routine
laboratory work, and munitions testing (e.g., depleted uranium, DU). 
There are several types of contaminated sites that have been documented
at APG.  First, there are the radioactive waste storage sites that have
been contaminated by leaking waste. Second, there are the open-air test
sites that have been contaminated by the use of open air testing of DU.
Third; there are the undocumented dump sites. The location of the
storage sites are known, and are allegedly under the control of the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). We know the location of some of the
major areas of DU testing. We do not know the location of the
undocumented dumps.  One site was found in the Bush River Study Area,
and was remediated several years ago.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and EPA cleanup guidelines differ in
their level of protectiveness, with EPA cleanup guidelines representing
the more stringent of the two. Community stakeholders should make sure
that radioactive waste cleanups in the future adhere to the EPA cleanup guidelines.

Unresolved Issues:

1. The depleted uranium contamination will remain a concern as long as
it is present. Particular concern is for the potential migration

2. EPA should support the complete remediation of radiological waste
sites and former storage areas, regardless of whether the site was
cleaned up previously under an NRC license, such as the Fords Farm
radiological waste storage site.



Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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