Detrick Stormwater

Michael A. Gilbert, the Army garrison’s stormwater project manager at Fort Detrick, describes efforts made to handle water runoff on the base.

Within Fort Detrick’s perimeter, every square foot of contoured, grassy land, every brick paver and every planted tree serves a purpose.

Michael A. Gilbert is the Army garrison’s stormwater project manager. When a new building goes up, like the future home of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, it’s Gilbert’s job to make sure the installation’s water quality isn’t affected.

The institute’s new building, currently under construction, requires a large parking lot. Since runoff from asphalt surfaces can carry toxic chemicals into local bodies of water such as Carroll Creek or the Monocacy River, Gilbert said a bioretention system was put under the lot.

In a typical bioretention area, trees are planted in a deep, soil-filled ditch lined with gravel at the bottom. Water flows into the soil, which catches some pollutants, and the trees take advantage of the water source.

Underneath the asphalt parking lot, the process is similar, with gravel helping the water drain through.

At the Fort Detrick firehouse, brick pavers replace some of the conventional asphalt in the parking lot, allowing water to flow through the pervious surface. A gravel pit at the end of a row of parking spaces collects and filters more water.

“We’re continuing to shrink our impervious surfaces, but still meet the mission requirements,” Gilbert said.

Fort Detrick’s stormwater management plan is regulated by the Maryland Department of the Environment. The state puts strict limits on the pollutants that can enter a body of water.

According to Shannon Moore, manager of the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, Maryland is one of the most innovative states for stormwater practices.

“It’s because we have important assets like the Chesapeake Bay we are striving to protect,” she wrote in an email.

Treating water quality, as Fort Detrick does, is a newer standard than just handling quantities of water efficiently, Moore said.

She noted that the kinds of stormwater management practices the garrison has taken on are “very innovative.”

Fort Detrick must ensure that water meets a certain standard before it flows off-post.

“We’re very, very conscientious of the community around us,” Gilbert said.

Some local residents and activists have long been concerned about the quality of the water that leaves Fort Detrick and the groundwater in the area.

The Army denied more than 100 individual claims of wrongful death and illnesses caused by contamination from Fort Detrick, including groundwater contamination, in 2015.

A class-action lawsuit filed by the Kristen Renee Foundation and local residents for $750 million, also claiming wrongful deaths and pain and suffering from environmental contamination, is awaiting a judge’s decision. The Army has asked the judge to dismiss that case.

Gilbert has held his current position for nearly 20 years. He said the garrison has historically taken a proactive approach to environmental stewardship.

He is proud of the work the garrison and his colleagues are doing to manage water quality.

“Never have I seen such conscientiousness in a group of individuals to protect the public,” Gilbert said.

Follow Sylvia Carignan on Twitter: @SylviaCarignan.

(1) comment


This article is misleading in that it skirts across details of the contamination from the past that residents are concerned and suing about. The past contamination has nothing to do wit todays good safety and environmental steward practices. The past accepted safety measures allowed the fort to bury biowarfare waste in an unlined landfill that currently is causing a carcinogenic plume of tce and pce in our groundwater...this is a fact. As a consequence the army is under CERCLA law which goes into effect when a location becomes a superfund site. Fort Detrick signed a federal facilities agreement which mandates that they clean up the past contamination. Currently they are still at the end of phase one of that remediation, the mapping of the plume. There are no clean up proposals in place yet. This article could have left the paragraphs out that mention but do not detail the residents complaints or lawsuits. The article should have stuck with showcasing the current "responsible"Ft Detrick that is concerned about its neighbors...but Sylvia should not have alluded to a false accusation from the families that are suing for the consequences of past contamination that persists in our groundwater right now. This contamination was not from run off on a base parking lot. It was from years of disposing the forts biowarfare wastes in an unlined landfill. This is a prime example of irresponsible reporting. This new way of handling run off is an entirely separate thing from the mess we are now dealing with in our groundwater.

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