Poisoned by Army’s Fort Doom, Civilians Say

     BALTIMORE (CN) – A U.S. Army Base in Maryland nicknamed Fort Doom for its research into offensive biological warfare is responsible for the deaths and illnesses of neighboring civilians, a class claims in Federal Court.
     Fort Detrick’s nickname hearkens to the 5,000 bombs containing anthrax spores that World War II researchers produced at the U.S. Army medical command installation in Frederick, according to the complaint filed Wednesday.
     Lead plaintiff Angela Pieper says “German and Japanese scientists … who had experimented on human subjects among POWs and concentration camp inmates” found work after the war at the 1,200-acre site.
     During the Cold War years, Fort Detrick was “the world’s leading research campus for biological agents requiring specialty containment,” the complaint continues.
     The Environmental Protection Agency allegedly put Fort Detrick on its Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country in 2009. Today the base is a cemetery for decades of biomedical and weapons research that were simply buried in shallow unlined pits, the complaint states.
     Pieper says the plume of chemical agents seeping from these pits quickly made their way into the drinking water supply of neighboring properties. The toxins have allegedly caused locals to develop various diseases and cancers.
     Pieper represents the estate of woman named Kristen Hernandez who died of “exposure to toxic materials, substances, chemicals, groundwater, compounds, wastes and/or byproducts thereof on or emanating from Fort Detrick,” the complaint states.
     A landfill that occupies one 400-acre site of Fort Detrick has been contaminated with “sterilized anthrax, radiological tracer materials, the lethal chemical agent phosgene, industrial waste, herbicides, and defoliants including known carcinogens in their formulation,” according to the suit.
     Other materials allegedly include “Agent Orange, dioxin, radioactive materials, anthrax, Ebola, tetrachloroethene (PCE), and trichloroethene (TCE).”
     Pieper and other current and former Marylanders say that the Army allowed “those toxics to contaminate the property and the vicinity surrounding Ft. Detrick.”
     The area has been subjected to multiple studies over the years, but the first attempt at remediation did not occur until 2001 – a limited removal action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the complaint.
     Cleaning crews opened one of the pits to find “unmarked, unlabeled containers, drums, barrels, and other chemical, biological, and/or radiological waste receptacles,” the complaint sates.
     “Vials containing live pathological bacteria were also revealed to have been disposed of at the site,” the class added.
     Pieper says the water system contains the same chemicals that was found in the soil, but that the removal action made no attempt at addressing the “identified contaminated groundwater.”
     “Nor did [the United States] undertake any other action to remediate continuing migration of hazardous substances in groundwater,” the complaint states.
     In 1981, the EPA recommended that the State of Maryland and EPA monitor any Army investigations “to address the potential for off-site migration of toxic materials and to delineate the potential hazards related to the possible presence of anthrax cysts in the soil,” the complaint states.
     Pieper notes that “the base was the home of some of our government’s most dangerous projects.”
     “Proper precautions were not always taken when dealing with potentially lethal products. Two workers at the base died from exposure to anthrax in the 1950s. Another died in 1964 from viral encephalitis.”
     The class seeks $750 million for negligence, wrongful death and other claims.
     It is represented by Jonathan Nace, of the Washington, D.C., firm Paulson & Nace.
     The attorney did not return a request for comment.

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