Watchdog group digs up questions about the Fort Ord cleanup.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Asmall group of citizens is bringing up old grievances with the U.S. Army’s efforts to clean up the former Fort Ord. The Fort Ord Community Action Group, an advisory body to the California Environmental Protection Agency, has drafted a resolution – which it hopes to present to the state Legislature and U.S. Congress – finding the cleanup unsuccessful.
“We need an environmental impact statement for the burning and for other issues, because the alternatives haven’t been properly analyzed,” says FOCAG co-chairwoman Vienna Merritt-Moore.
The FOCAG resolution states: “The largest Army base ever closed remains a dangerous and toxic mess, [and] the cleanup itself is harming residents.”
The resolution draws attention to what group members say is inadequate cleanup of the base’s beach weapons area, faulty landfills, groundwater contamination and out-of-control prescribed burns, arguing that contamination detection measures are not adequate.
FOCAG also calls for more transparency, asserting that information in the administrative record, although accessible, is hard for the public to navigate and understand.
“This is the most distilled description of the very grave problems with the cleanup,” says FOCAG member Lance Houston, who wrote the Aug. 10 draft. Group members are now compiling supporting documentation.
Claudia Loomis, spokeswoman for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, disagrees with FOCAG’s allegations and maintains that regulatory agencies are making reasonable efforts to ensure public participation. She notes that prescribed burns are needed for the safety of munitions recovery workers, and describes on-site groundwater treatment. The DTSC constantly implements new ordnance detection and cleanup technologies, she says.
A year after the Army transferred more than 3,300 acres of land to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority to detect and remove unexploded ordnances, FORA issued a memo declaring 700 acres in “County North,” just south of Inter-Garrison Road by CSU Monterey Bay, clear. The memo is open to public comment through Sept. 28.
With DTSC and Cal EPA’s approval, the property will transfer to local jurisdictions. Most of it will be set aside for a habitat corridor and reserve, with 73 acres for commercial development.
Stan Cook, remediation program manager for FORA’s Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement, says the area has been confirmed clean through field tests and interviews with veterans who trained on the site. “Basically, you’re guilty and then proven innocent,” he says “Over the last 14 years there have been quite a few checks on this property.”
FOCAG co-chair Mike Weaver called the memo “a cause for concern,” speculating that the area may still be contaminated with non-explosive munitions constituents. The document is available at www.fortordcleanup.com.