After 10-year Wait, Homes Near Fort Detrick May Finally Get City Water

Fort Detrick (U.S. Army photo)
Fort Detrick (U.S. Army photo)

Residents of five homes on Kemp Lane in Frederick may finally have clean tap water after getting bottled water shipments supplied by the Army for the past 10 years.

On May 5, Frederick's Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing on a request by Fort Detrick's U.S. Army garrison to connect those five homes to the city's water supply. The fear all along has been that the homes, which use well water, may have had their wells contaminated by pollution from the fort.

Debbie Blank, who lives in one of the Kemp Lane homes, said contractors came out in 2014 to put flags in her yard and spray-paint the path of the waterline connection.

She waited months for the contractors to come back, and even mowed her lawn around the flags, but finally decided to take the flags down when nothing happened.

Though the city may approve Fort Detrick's request, Blank is skeptical that this latest development will lead to prompt action.

"I'll believe it when I see it," she said.

The first right-of-entry agreement she signed with the Army expired, she said. The current agreement, which may be used if the city approves the connection, was signed in 2015.

Blank said that even if her home is connected to municipal water, it won't make much difference. She already uses tap water for laundry, bathing and other non-cooking uses.

Residents of the five Kemp Lane homes have been receiving shipments of bottled water for cooking and drinking for more than 10 years.

The five homes are on well water. While testing groundwater around Fort Detrick in 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers found perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene in three residential wells along Kemp Lane, which is adjacent to a 399-acre parcel near Fort Detrick known as Area B.

The Corps of Engineers has sampled groundwater around the post for years to watch for toxins seeping through the bottom of Fort Detrick's capped landfills at Area B.

Those landfills contain sludge from its former decontamination plants, ashes from its incinerators, potentially radioactive sludge from a sewage disposal plant, drums of the industrial solvent trichloroethylene, chemical materials, biological materials and herbicides.

After the Corps of Engineers found perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene in the Kemp Lane homes' wells, the Army started paying for bottled water shipments.

According to Lanessa Hill, a spokeswoman for the Fort Detrick garrison, the Army is paying $62,000 to connect the homes to municipal water.

The Army will continue to provide bottled water to those homes until the connection is made, Hill said. Those shipments cost the Army about $2,700 per year.

The city already has installed a new water supply line along Kemp Lane, so it is just the hookups to the houses that need to be done.

If Frederick's Board of Aldermen approve the Army's request to build the connection, the construction process will take two to three months.

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Army Military Bases