Sunday, November 22, 2009

Contaminated Industrial Site Proposed for Diplomatic Security Training Center

A commenter brought to my attention the following article from the November 20 edition of the Frederick (Maryland) News-Post, Lawmakers hope to bring federal training center to Eastalco site:

Lawmakers are lobbying to bring a Bureau of Diplomatic Security training center to Frederick County, with the hope it will usher in hundreds of jobs.

On behalf of the county's state delegation, Delegate Paul Stull, R-Md., sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., about 10 days ago, asking that she support building the training center at the site of the shuttered Alcoa Eastalco Works aluminum plant near Ballenger Creek Pike.

"We think it would be an excellent opportunity to bring jobs to Frederick ," Delegate Galen Clagett, D-Md., said. "It would be a world-class center ... I'm very much in favor of it."

Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., on Nov. 16 sent letters to the State Department, which oversees the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the General Services Administration, which will help pick a location from several bids along the East Coast.

"We heartily endorse the creation of a diplomatic training facility in Maryland," the letters read. "Frederick County offers the Bureau many advantages including a highly-skilled professional labor work force, three top-quality higher education institutions, and a variety of lodging, dining, and retail establishments."

-- snip --

The training complex will be funded in part with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will cost more than $100 million, according to the recovery act's website. It includes indoor and outdoor shooting ranges, urban and unimproved road driving courses, high-speed anti-terrorism driving tracks and simulations buildings, the website says.

I liked this comment by one of the local elected officials:

Since the Eastalco plant shut down, the property has been mentioned as a possible location for electric power generators, solid waste disposal sites and housing developments.

Delegate Rick Weldon said the property was large enough to provide an ample buffer between the training center and the nearby communities.

"Given that Eastalco was there smelting aluminum and there was enough of a buffer," the 150-acre training center in the middle of a 2,000-acre site shouldn't be a problem, Weldon said.

By which he apparently meant that the training center's presence shouldn't bother local residents because the center will be right smack in the middle of the hazardous waste left behind by decades of aluminum smelting, and not close to them. Whether that should be a problem for the hundreds of DSS employees who would work and train at the center, Delegate Weldon didn't say.

My commenter said of all this:

Now some of you may be scratching your head asking, what are some of the hazardous materials produced from smelting operations? Most notably; cyanides, fluorides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons all of which have the possibility of contamination of subterranean aquifers and surface waters.

Yes, probably not the healthiest location to stage basic training operations for our best and brightest working in federal law enforcement. The half-life on a majority of these waste products is much longer than one would expect. I know wouldn't want to live and work on the location / property of a decommissioned smelting operation.

I hope those in power in GSA and DSS will reevaluate this location and decide to move to one of the locations they have already scouted out or use part time in West Virginia and Virginia.

Aluminum Smelter Plant / Test Laboratory = bad location. West Virginia / Virginia = good location.

This isn't rocket science.

The choice of location for any kind of federal facility is mainly up to the General Services Administration (GSA), which does have certain site selection criteria pertaining to environmental contamination:

Sites for federal facilities do not have to be pristine to be selected, but they must support public health. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) regulates the disclosure, disposal, and remediation of contaminants and allows potentially problematic sites to be improved through the development of federal facilities.

Let's see how GSA squares those criteria with what looks to be a heavily contaminated site.

Of course, the Eastalco site could presumably be made safe for re-use with enough environmental remediation. How much that remediation would cost is anyone's guess at this point. However, just last February a Frederick County Commissioner told the Frederick News-Post that it could cost roughly $200 million to clean up the site sufficiently to use it as a landfill:

Eastalco has told the county the company is not interested in selling the Manor Woods Road property. If the county were to put a landfill on the Eastalco property, as some have proposed, hazardous waste cleanup could cost roughly $200 million, [Frederick County Commissioners President Jan] Gardner said. Eastalco was the site of an aluminum smelter for decades.

All in all, I think the State Department would be well advised to pass on the Eastalco site.

No comments: