Army to work with group looking into Marion
Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Dispatch Staff Reporter
MARION, Ohio -- A skirmish between the Army and members of a
citizens group that studies contaminated grounds in and around
a former military depot has ended peacefully.
The battleground had been a stretch of woods and fields
along the southern edge of the depot.
The U.S. Army Reserve closed the 127-acre training site in
November 1998 after high levels of toxic contamination were
found on the property.
The military, which has recently completed a preliminary
investigation of the site, had balked at joining the
Restoration Advisory Board, a citizens group reviewing
contamination issues in the area.
Group members, backed by the Ohio Environmental Protection
Agency, say the Army has not provided enough information about
the toxic chemicals that polluted the site.
"The whole thing just keeps smelling more and more of
somebody having information they don't want us to find,'' said
Don Millard, co-chairman of the Restoration Advisory Board.
"As the investigation progresses without our input . . .
it's time to force the Army Reserve into joining our RAB or
thumbing their nose at us.''
Yesterday, the Army said it will join the board.
"We're hoping it (joining the RAB) will improve
communication,'' said Capt. Michael Stella, spokesman for the
Army Reserve. "We have been attending the RAB meetings since
late 1998 and have been giving them updates of our
About 800 students attend River Valley's high school and
middle school a few hundred yards from the site.
An investigation that uncovered significant toxic
contamination on parts of the 78-acre school campus began in
1997 after concerns were raised about a high number of
leukemia cases among high-school graduates.
As a result, most contaminated areas on the campus are
restricted, and school and government officials have
determined it is safe for students to remain until new
facilities are built. No link has been found between the
cancer cases and the contamination.
But the Restoration Advisory Board says it wants to know
whether any contamination on the Army training site,
especially airborne, could affect the schools.
The Army site and school campus are located on the grounds
of the 640-acre former Marion Engineering Depot, where
chemical waste was dumped for years.
Both the citizens group and the Ohio EPA recently sent
letters to Army officials requesting that the Army Reserve
join the advisory board, which plans to discuss the issue
Thursday night during its regular meeting.
The Army has sent representatives to past meetings, which
are held every other month in Marion.
"I ask that you seriously consider using the existing
Marion RAB as a mechanism to allow (community) stakeholders to
have a voice in future investigations'' of the reserve site,
Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones wrote in the letter he
sent the Army.
Last month, the Army Reserve 88th Regional Support Command
in Fort Snelling, Minn., sent an 800-page draft report of its
preliminary investigation to the Ohio EPA.
Jeff Steers, assistant chief of the EPA's Bowling Green
office and a member of the advisory board, said the Army's
report indicates no significant contamination beyond a toxic
waste area found in 1998 where chromium and lead had leaked
into the ground. That area was cleaned up.
Still, he said the agency is concerned "about how
information is being released or not being released in
relation to the (Army) Reserve portion of the investigation.
"We want the public to be part of the process.''
The Army said it plans to update group members on Thursday.
River Valley, a 1,700-student district east of Marion,
plans to use a combination of state, federal and local money
to build a new high school and middle school on a different
site by August 2003. The current school campus will then be
closed and cleaned up.
"We've still got the kids at the schools for two years,''
Millard said. "We, as a community, have a right to know what's
there'' on the Army training site.