According to a Fort Detrick attorney, preliminary testing has revealed that the release of a chemical during well drilling at the Army installation last week was not enough to be hazardous.
Well drillers at the base, located near Frederick, Md., stopped work on Nov. 16 after detecting an odor that turned out to be tetracholoroethene, known as PCE, which is used commonly as a dry-cleaning solvent. Air and water samples were sent to an independent laboratory by the drilling contractor, according Robert Sperling, a Fort Detrick spokesman, Gazette.net reports.
“It’s no big deal,” Gary Zolyak, a Fort Detrick attorney, said, according to Gazette.net. “The smell did not make it more than 10 feet from the well, and did not go beyond the property line.”
As part of the cleanup effort, a contractor was drilling a monitoring well in a landfill at Area B-11, a part of the base that served for decades as the dumping ground for chemical, biological and radiological waste. PCE and tricholoroethene found in groundwater on and off base in 1992 were identified as above the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant levels. Waste in the landfill includes animal refuse, acids, chemicals, metals, wood, herbicides, insecticides, phosgene and animals potentially contaminated with anthrax.
“There is no reason to suspect anything about it was dangerous, but the information gives the impression that something was wrong,” William Hudson, a community involvement coordinator for the EPA, said according to Gazette.net.
Workers sealed the well at 150 feet, 200 feet short of their goal, and started drilling another approximately 30 feet away. Sperling said that he notified the public because the fort wanted residents to know what was happening in case they saw workers donning respiratory equipment.
“We didn’t want people to be alarmed,” Sperling said, according to Gazette.net.