Given the serious lapse in containment in May 2018, which led to potentially serious environmental contamination that has not been independently assessed, continuing high-containment laboratory operations at Fort Detrick pose an unaddressed risk to Frederick residents.
The Frederick Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee believes that the chemical decontamination methods used for wastewater from USAMRIID laboratories were probably sufficient to ensure that there is little risk of illness among Frederick residents or Fort Detrick staff.
However, without access to their environmental sampling and monitoring data we cannot independently conclude that there is no risk to the community. Even after follow-up requests from both our mayor and county executive in February, Colonel Nunnally and the Army have continued to be nontransparent about their environmental monitoring data and assessment process.
Perhaps more important are serious lapses in communication between the Fort Detrick garrison command and USAMRIID leading up to the overflow of the Steam Sterilization Plant. These resulted in a situation where the base knew it was operating the plant with multiple failed wastewater pumps for several months before the catastrophic failure of the waste containment system in May 2018.
There is no evidence that the poor management of water sterilization facilities has been corrected. So, resumed full operations at USAMRIID likely pose similar risks as those faced by our community in 2018. In the absence of responsible actions by Fort Detrick and USAMRIID leadership, our community should be concerned about the return to full operations.