April 16, 2009 Markey, Dingell, Green Release GAO Report on Contaminated DOD Sites

Hanscom Field, Fort Meade, Langley and Andrews Air Force Bases among sites DOD Refuses to Sign Cleanup Agreements For

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, and Congressman Gene Green and John D. Dingell, Members of the Subcommittee, today released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report addressing the listing and oversight of contaminated Superfund sites at DOD facilities. The report, entitled Superfund: Greater EPA Enforcement and Reporting are Needed to Enhance Cleanup at DOD Sites (GAO-09-278), found that despite years of negotiations, DOD has yet to agree to sign clean-up agreements with EPA that are required by law. Chairman Markey and Congressman Green also wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urging both rapid resolution to the dispute and rapid cleanup of the sites.

 

 “The clean-up of contaminated Defense Department sites should be held to the same standard as a contaminated site anywhere else,” said Rep. Markey.  “The Pentagon should be as accountable as any other polluter.”

“Our armed forces are the strongest in the world, but Pentagon lawyers should not be able to avoid enforcing our environmental protection laws,” said Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas).  “Refusal by these military bases to comply with valid cleanup orders does not stand up to public scrutiny, and DOD should be held to the same standards as any other polluter.”

According to the GAO report released today, DOD sites still account for 9 percent of all contaminated Superfund sites. DOD also owns thousands of other contaminated sites across the country which will cost billions of dollars to clean up.

Despite years of negotiations, DOD and EPA have not finalized Interagency Agreements setting out the terms for clean-up of 9 of the 140 DOD Superfund sites, despite the statutory requirement to do so, reportedly because DOD disagreed with the terms contained in the Agreement documents and simply refused to sign the documents. These sites include (1) Air Force Plant 44 (Tucson, AZ) (2) Andrews Air Force Base (MD) (3) Brandywine Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (MD) (4) Fort Meade (MD) (5) Hanscom Field (Bedford, MA) (6) Langley Air Force Base (VA) (7) McGuire Air Force Base (Trenton, NJ) 8) Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville, AL) and (9) Tyndall Air Force Base (Panama City, FL).  Agreements for two additional sites, the Naval Air Station Whiting Field (Milton, FL) and the Naval Computer Telecommunication Area Administrative Master Station (Wahiawa, HI) were just signed earlier this month.

Although the Superfund law enables the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce cleanup agreement requirements against non-governmental polluters, there is no enforcement mechanism that could be used if a federal agency refuses to do so. Although EPA may initiate administrative enforcement actions under other laws (such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act) to compel DOD to clean up contaminated sites, EPA chose not to pursue enforcement actions until 2007, more than 10 years after these sites were first placed into the Superfund Program.  Currently, there are EPA Administrative orders in place at 4 sites: Fort Meade (MD), McGuire Air Force Base (Trenton, NJ), Tyndall Air Force Base (Panama City, FL), and Air Force Plant 44 (Tucson, AZ).

The GAO report can be viewed here: http://markey.house.gov/images//dodgaoreport.pdf

The letter can be viewed here: http://markey.house.gov/images//dodletter.pdf

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