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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 test grid in Area B.
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, 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.
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, a removal action was completed at Area B-11, an Area B chemical disposal area. Activities completed 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. 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). All of these disposal activities could have resulted in ground water contamination.
The EPA has requested that the Army undertake an Archives Search Report to identify all materials used, tested, and disposed of at Area B over time. Such historical information will aid in determining what potentially could exist at Area B.
The EPA maximum contaminant level for the amount of tetrachloroethylene that can be in drinking water is 0.005 milligrams tetrachloroethylene per liter of water (0.005 mg/L). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a limit of 100 ppm for an 8-hour workday over a 40-hour workweek. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that tetrachloroethylene be handled as a potential carcinogen and recommends that levels in workplace air should be as low as possible. [Source: ATSDR ToxFAQs accessed 12/29/10, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=264&tid=48 ]
TCE is Trichloroethylene (TCE), a nonflammable, colorless liquid with a somewhat sweet odor and a sweet, burning taste. It is used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers. Trichloroethylene is not thought to occur naturally in the environment. However, it has been found in underground water sources and many surface waters as a result of the manufacture, use, and disposal of the chemical.
Some studies with mice and rats have suggested that high levels of trichloroethylene may cause liver, kidney, or lung cancer. Some studies of people exposed over long periods to high levels of trichloroethylene in drinking water or in workplace air have found evidence of increased cancer. Although, there are some concerns about the studies of people who were exposed to trichloroethylene, some of the effects found in people were similar to effects in animals. In its 9th Report on Carcinogens, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) determined that trichloroethylene is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that trichloroethylene is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level for trichloroethylene in drinking water at 0.005 milligrams per liter (0.005 mg/L) or 5 parts of TCE per billion parts water. The EPA has also developed regulations for the handling and disposal of trichloroethylene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an exposure limit of 100 parts of trichloroethylene per million parts of air (100 ppm) for an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. [Source: ATSDR ToxFAQs accessed 12/29/10 http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=172&tid=30]
See also the ATSDR December 2009 report on the ATSDR website http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/pha/FtDetrickAreaBGroundwater/FortDetrickPHAFinal12-09-2009.pdf or click to it from the link on the www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/CancerInvestigation web page under resources.
VC has been found in the source area near the B-11 pit. In 2007, 21 Area B monitoring wells were sampled with only 1 detection of VC (9.6 ppm, in BMW 56D) near the B-11 pit area. There were no off-site detections of VC. Consistent levels of vinyl chloride (VC) throughout the contaminant plume would indicate that the known contaminants (i.e. TCE, PCE) may be naturally degrading through the process of dehalogenation to a benign endpoint (i.e. ethane) through biologic and natural processes. Certain anaerobic bacteria, principally Dehalococcoide ethenogenes, have been shown to effectively accomplish this conversion. The optimum pH range for D. ethenogenes has been reported in scientific literature as neutral to slightly alkaline, i.e., between 7 & 7.5. During the 2007 sampling event, the average pH reported was 7.56 or slightly beyond the optimum pH range. Also, with the exception of the anaerobic pit areas in Area B, the aquifer is oxygenated (i.e., aerobic). For this reason, significant D. ethenogenes activity is unlikely to be detected beyond the pit areas.
With regard to toxic air pollutants (TAPs), screening levels (i.e., acceptable ambient concentrations for toxic air pollutants) are generally established at 1/100 of allowed worker exposure levels. The Maryland Department of Environment has also developed additional screening levels for carcinogenic compounds. The additional screening levels are established such that continuous exposure to the subject TAP at the screening level for a period of 70 years is expected to cause an increase in lifetime cancer risk of no more than 1 in 100,000.
The Fort Detrick incinerators are required to perform routine stack testing in order to demonstrate compliance with both federal and State emission standards. Based on these stack test results, Fort Detrick is in compliance with both the Federal and State regulatory requirements for air emissions. In addition, the same controls would reduce emissions of other unregulated toxic air pollutants.
There are 7 principal dioxin compounds, 10 furan compounds, and 12 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) compounds which act similarly and may pose potential health risks. The compounds in this group (dioxins, furans, and PCBs) have different levels of toxicity, so a particular level of one compound does not necessarily pose the same risk as an equal level of another compound in the group. Dioxins are widespread environmental contaminants that tend to be present in soil at background levels. The background level of dioxins and related compounds in Frederick County has not been determined.
The only dioxin results reviewed by U.S. EPA thus far were submitted by John Bee on behalf of the Kristin Renee White Foundation. These soil samples, when evaluated in terms of 2,3,7,8-TCDD equivalents (2,3,7,8-TCDDeq), revealed dioxin levels (up to 7.89 parts per trillion [ppt] 2,3,7,8-TCDDeq) that are within the background range expected for rural areas of the U.S. (up to 11 ppt 2,3,7,8-TCDDeq ).
None of the levels reported in the referenced sampling effort exceed U.S. EPA's current residential clean-up standard for dioxin (1000 ppt 2,3,7,8-TCDDeq), proposed interim Preliminary Remediation Goal (72 ppt 2,3,7,8-TCDDeq) or risk-based concentration for residential exposure (450 ppt 2,3,7,8-TCDDeq), at an excess cancer risk of 1 in 10,000). As part of the ongoing investigation of Area B, EPA and MDE are discussing how best to conduct dioxin sampling for both on-post and off-post locations. This effort should provide more thorough coverage than the limited dioxin sampling conducted to date, and should capture the extent of dioxin contamination, if any, in the vicinity of the Area B.
If the Maryland Department of the Environment determines that there are area-wide contaminations that could impact individual private wells, an investigation in collaboration with the local County Health Department will be made. Depending on the significance of the contamination and number of impacted wells, corrective actions will be recommended. If wells are contaminated at a level that exceeds federal or State drinking water standards, solutions under consideration will include the provision of public water. There is also the option for the responsible party (e.g. Ft. Detrick) to request that the City connect those properties.