Detrick sign

Fort Detrick.

The committee responsible for providing feedback on containment labs at Fort Detrick has concerns about the transparency of information the Army base provides to the committee.

The Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee has questions about a May 2018 flooding incident in which it says wastewater from a U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases facility went into Carroll Creek, as well as about an April shooting in which a gunman was killed on the base after a shooting incident in Frederick.

“We’ve had two major incidents and little transparency,” CLCAC Chairman Matthew Sharkey told the Frederick mayor and aldermen at a workshop Wednesday.

In the 2018 incident, USAMRIID said it checked to see if there were any concerns but wouldn’t explain how, Sharkey said.

Any claim that water from the incident at the facility’s steam sterilization plant reached Carroll Creek is “completely not true,” Fort Detrick spokeswoman Lanessa Hill said Wednesday.

USAMRIID took samples from multiple locations and tested for 16 bacterial and viral organisms, including anthrax, Ebola and Lassa fever, she said.

It also reached out to agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of the Army, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Maryland Department of Health — as well as sent letters to Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor and County Executive Jan Gardner — to inform them of the results, Hill said.

“Using the scale developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Select Agents and Toxins, we determined the risk to the public from the steam sterilization plant incident to be ‘negligible,’” then-Detrick and USAMRIID commanders Col. Dexter Nunnally and Col. E. Darrin Cox wrote to O’Connor and Gardner on March 4, 2020. “‘Negligible’ is defined as ‘insignificant threat to entity personnel or the health of the public or agriculture.’”

They went on to say, “The best available evidence in May 2018 strongly suggested that no material from the leak left the boundary of Fort Detrick. As of this date, we believe that is still the case.”

Regarding the April 6 active shooter incident that began in the city of Frederick and continued onto Fort Detrick before the gunman, a Navy corpsman, was shot and killed by base security, Sharkey expressed concern that the man was able to get relatively far onto the base before he was confronted.

“This ended better than it could have ended,” he said.

Since Fort Detrick security knew the man was coming, Sharkey asked what would happen if 10 people in different vehicles showed up at different gates when people at the base didn’t know they were coming.

In an Aug. 25 letter to O’Connor, Detrick commander Col. Danford W. Bryant wrote that the FBI is leading the investigation and the Navy is handling questions about the shooter, so the Army and Fort Detrick have no authority to speak about the incident.

“Any questions regarding specific security procedures and processes at Fort Detrick are operational security measures and considered highly sensitive information, which cannot be discussed,” Bryant wrote.

While they value the CLCAC’s intentions, the base doesn’t believe the questions are in line with the committee’s purpose, he said.

Sharkey said efforts to find answers to the questions have proven to be part of a pattern of the base’s command not wanting to engage in discussion.

The only time the committee hears from Detrick is when there’s an emergency, he said.

Sharkey also asked the mayor and aldermen for help in identifying local businesses that operate laboratories under a law that went into effect in October 2020 to locate and provide information about the labs.

Aldermen Ben MacShane and Derek Shackelford expressed sympathy for the committee’s questions but doubted that the city could be much use in getting answers.

“I don’t know that we’re really viewed as an information stakeholder” as much as city officials should be, MacShane said.

Shackelford added that with the way Detrick and the military work, the city may be limited in getting answers to some of its questions.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter:

@RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(9) comments

barrykissin

In May, 2018, the Steam Sterilization Plant entrusted with sterilizing wastewater from the high-containment labs at USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, was flooded causing breaches of containment (by deadly pathogens). This event greatly contributed to the CDC’s decision to shut down USAMRIID’s labs from July 2019 through March 2020. Detrick’s Commander Dexter Nunnally repeatedly promised the City’s Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee (CLCAC) to provide the results of environmental sampling designed to determine the extent of contamination of the surrounding soils and ground water. On Feb. 28, 2020, Mayor O’Connor and County Executive Gardner sent a letter to Commander Dexter Nunnally requesting "promised information ... related to potential risks associated with the wastewater leak at the Steam Sterilization Plant in 2018." More specifically, they requested "complete data from the environmental sampling ... including how, where and what samples were collected; detail the tests completed and the results of each test; and the location and depth of each sample." They also requested "contact information for the contractor who did the survey." On March 4, the Commander replied without providing the detail they requested and concluded by saying "we do not believe that providing additional information would contribute to assessment of the incident ..."

According to this article, the Fort’s spokeswoman, Lanessa Hill, had the nerve to claim that the Commander’s letter of March 4 informed the Mayor and the County Executive of the results of environmental sampling.

There is a chronic transparency problem. According to this article, Alderpersons MacShane and Shackelford recognize the problem, but believe there is nothing the City can do about it. I beg to differ. It is past time when the City (and County) must involve our congressional representatives in vindicating the essential mission of our Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee (CLCAC), originally created pursuant to a recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a letter to editor on April 10, 2020, the CLCAC informed us that “several months” before the flooding of the Steam Sterilization Plant, the Fort became aware that this plant was “operating with multiple failed wastewater pumps” and did nothing about it. This amounts to reckless indifference on the part of the Fort and demonstrates the necessity of fully supporting the CLCAC.

threecents

The steam sterilizer is one of several methods used to decontaminate waste from Fort Detrick. Waste is first decontaminated by autoclaving and/or chemical methods before it gets to the steam sterilizer plant. Are there steam sterilizer plants at other containment labs - such as the ones in universities? What about hospital labs?

gabrielshorn2013

Exactly, three. Barry "Agent Mulder" Kissin knows not of which he speaks. Everything is a government conspiracy and cover-up to him. The waste goes through multiple layers of decontamination. It's a belt and suspenders operation. I'm just wondering why the "containment committee" thinks they are owed an explanation and report from base on that shooting. Maybe a tad of "scope creep" there.

BabaYaga

Since when does a group of liberals question the CDC or the government? I mean, take your Vax shot. Get the jab. Do what they tell you. THE CDC IS NEVER LYING!

threecents

Nobody is saying the CDC lied about anything, and this has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative.

threecents

So, how many people in Frederick got "anthrax, Ebola and Lassa fever", etc...?

Dwasserba

‘“The best available evidence in May 2018 strongly suggested that no material from the leak left the boundary of Fort Detrick. As of this date, we believe that is still the case.”’

gabrielshorn2013

Oh, oh!!! I know!!! I know!!! (hand waving)

threecents

Put your hand down Gabe; this is a rhetorical question for Matthew Sharkey, who should know better, since he is a real scientist, unlike our mutual friend, Barry.

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