Army Agrees To Test For Toxic Gas At Fort Lewis

Army Agrees To Test For Toxic Gas At Fort Lewis
April 12th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Army Agrees To Test For Toxic Gas At Fort Lewis

Army Agrees To Test For Toxic Gas At Fort Lewis
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
April 12, 2007
Pg. 1

Contaminated water flows beneath Madigan housing
By Andrew Schneider, P-I Senior Correspondent
The Army has relented and will test the air in homes at Fort Lewis to see if soldiers and their families living in the Madigan housing area are being exposed to toxic vapors from contaminated underground water.
"To put the minds of our residents at ease, I've directed that air quality testing be conducted in the Old Madigan housing area," which includes about 100 homes, Col. Cynthia Murphy, commander of Fort Lewis garrison, said Wednesday. "We are putting together a program to test the air within the homes, and once the test is complete, we'll tell the community what we find."
The decision came a day after the Seattle P-I reported that the Army had known for years about the possible health risk and had neither conducted testing of the air in the homes nor alerted the occupants about the contamination beneath. Army environmental specialists insisted that there was no danger.
The Army's initial decision not to test was made in spite of repeated discussions with Environmental Protection Agency hazardous-material specialists, hydrogeologists, toxicologists and Superfund managers who said the testing should be done.
According to testing of monitoring wells nearby, the EPA says the contaminated water is filled with more than a dozen toxic substances flowing from an old dump site about a mile from the housing units. However, it is trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, that most concerns the EPA specialists because of the ease with which it moves through soil.
Trichloroethylene, a grease-cutting solvent found in almost 500 EPA Superfund cleanup sites, can cause a number of adverse effects, such as kidney cancer and reproductive, developmental and neurological abnormalities.
"This is about the health of our people. It's about the concern and their peace of mind and about doing the right thing," said J.C. Mathews, Fort Lewis garrison's public affairs officer.
Members of Washington's congressional delegation -- Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith and Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray -- Wednesday wrote to Fort Lewis' commanding Lt. Gen. James Dubik and EPA Regional Administrator Elin Miller expressing their concern over the possible exposure of the soldiers and their families to toxic vapors. The letter urged that representatives of the two organizations meet today at the post to "address the potential public health risks and environmental hazards."
Dicks is the vice chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, with oversight responsibility for the EPA. Smith is on the House Armed Services Committee.
Brig. Gen. William Troy, I Corps' deputy commanding general, will lead the Army team at the meeting. While EPA scientists worked Wednesday on their presentation, the agency was unable to say who will be representing EPA's position.
"No one has told us officially that we should do this," Murphy said in a statement. "But I think it is the right thing to do so we can put our families' minds at ease."
Although the details of the testing had not been worked out, Joseph Piek, another Fort Lewis spokesman, described the process as lengthy and expensive.
"To do this testing right requires moving a good number of people out because the houses must be vacant, as the equipment used to do the testing is extremely sensitive."
He said that between 15 and 25 families would have to be relocated to get a sample large enough to characterize the contamination. "That testing is not something that can be done overnight," Piek added. "We're probably talking several months, if not more, to relocate the families."
Although now agreeing to do the testing, the Army still maintains that it did nothing wrong because the EPA never "officially" demanded that the testing be done. The P-I on Tuesday described documents and presentations by Fort Lewis' Public Works department that showed the military has been aware of the potential problem for years.
"We have to prioritize the things we do as a federal agency because of the impact on our people and ... the money available," Mathews said, "and our testing up to now indicated to our people that the air quality ... is safe."
He said that neither an official demand nor an official EPA position has been issued on the testing of the homes.
"Nevertheless, we are now going to conduct that testing in the absence of an official EPA position and we're going to spend time with EPA about the way to move forward."
Most of the soldiers living in the three- and four-bedroom, single-story, 47-year-old homes work at nearby Madigan Army Medical Center.
As far as today's meeting, Mathews said he "expects, fully understands and hopes that there will be a vigorous exchange of ideas among the EPA scientists and the post's public works staff."
April 12th, 2007  
Wonder where these chips will lay when they fall. . . .
April 13th, 2007  
They'll blame Post WWII policies and people who have already ETS'd.
Army Agrees To Test For Toxic Gas At Fort Lewis

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