News Stories


Housing Development Moves Forward Near Area With Cancer Deaths

(WUSA February 18, 2013)

FREDERICK, Md. (WUSA) -- Plans to build hundreds of homes near "Area B" at Frederick's Fort Detrick are upsetting families who believe their loved ones got cancer because of contamination in the air, water, and ground that they believe originated on the base.

Their frustration increased last week when a city planning commission approved developer-requested changes that further the approval process for the development.

"The [problem] with that is they're sitting on contamination. The contamination from Area B is still leaching, still leaking," said Susan Funk, a spokesperson for the Kristen Renee Foundation, named after a young cancer victim who lived near Ft. Detrick.

"And no way in heck would anybody build, and add more people to an area that is a superfund site. This is on the National Priorities List. It's the Superfund site of Superfund sites, one of the worst in the United States," she said.

"Hundreds of families have come to us with cancer cases," Funk added.

Nearby Dot Blank and her daughter Debra live in the home Dot first inhabited in 1959. It is directly across the street from Area B.

"I think once they start digging into the soil and moving everything it's going to affect and disturb things that are still down in the ground, that have leached into the ground, all the chemicals that have been buried over there," Debra Blank said.

Ft. Detrick was a center of development for the nation's chemical and biological warfare development for decades, using dangerous chemicals for that research.

"There are probably six families on this road that someone in the family has passed away with cancer," Blank said.

Her mother, Dot, also has cancer. Dot worked at Ft. Detrick before her retirement.

WUSA9 attempted to reach the developers of the project but they were unavailable for comment on President's Day.

Detrick Area Project Approved Despite Water Safety Concerns

(Thursday, February 21, 2013 )

Paul Gordon: Detrick area project approved despite water safety concerns

On Feb. 11, the Frederick Planning Commission approved a request for changes to the master plan for the Waverly View Planned Neighborhood.
The project, located north and south of Shookstown Road, calls for the construction of 730 houses on 90 acres near Fort Detrick, either contiguous or across from the infamous Area B.
In 2009, Area B was named a Super Fund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, considered potentially dangerous to human health and the environment. The EPA also required additional measures for cleanup before development could advance, along with special supervision.
At last week’s hearing, the lawyer for the developer said his office had received permission from the Maryland Department of the Environment to proceed with the project, and that the company had responded to the EPA’s concerns...


Planning commission member Rick Stup said “our hands are tied,” preventing the panel from denying the developer’s request.
Two residents who testified at the hearing, Jennifer Peppe Hahn of the Fort Detrick Restoration Advisory Board and Susan Funk of the Kristen Renee Foundation, vigorously protested that the safety of citizens comes first, and the commission was failing in its duty to accept responsibility.
Having battled two cancers, Hahn said: “This is not about politics or a developer’s rights.” It is about protecting “future health needs of the community.”
I agree.
The developer insisted that the property had been tested, but a letter from the EPA to the developer indicated the agency’s dissatisfaction.
The development company was given one week to respond, with the EPA saying it wanted access to the development site to drill wells and complete groundwater testing to understand “the nature and extent of contamination migrating from the Fort Detrick Area B Superfund site.”
The letter indicated that the Army has often requested access to the property for two years but has been denied.
The Superfund’s EPA Region 3 website, which relates the history of Area B, reports no pollution of drinking water caused by runoff at this time. But officials have found groundwater from four sources indicating contamination by TCE and PCE, two cancer-causing solvents used in dry cleaning.
The EPA indicated it is developing a conceptual site model related to karst or limestone formations in Area B, with sampling to have occurred between 2011 and 2013. And it is doing a study to “evaluate potential for vapor intrusion associated with contaminant plume migration off Area B.”
The EPA also has done initial sampling and analysis of Agent Orange, a cancer-causing pesticide, at Area B, with a draft report due by early 2013, the website said.
A Fort Detrick contractor said two weeks ago that he wanted to do more testing of groundwater “in and around” Area B because TCE was found at five points in Carroll Creek up to Baker Park during recent testing.
Although the quantities are below federal drinking water standards, the EPA is concerned about Area B near the proposed Waverly View project, where the highest levels of groundwater contamination were found. But they are unable to do the testing.
The most compelling reason to postpone permission to develop near Fort Detrick is that the EPA is about to release updated toxicity information for PCE and TCE and rules for cleanup of “two of the most prevalent and difficult to remediate contaminants affecting soil, groundwater and indoor air.”
All of which strongly suggests that any development near Fort Detrick may have new standards relating to soil contamination. To deny such development before the EPA testing has been completed and new rules are imposed is within the planning commission’s authority. Federal and state environmental laws supersede local law.
Paul Gordon, a local historian, was mayor of Frederick from 1990 to 1994. Reach him at