published July 23, 2001
Marion citizens to petition
By TOM HENRY
MARION, Ohio - Residents plan to submit a
petition to the Army this week in hopes of persuading it to be more
open about any pollutants found on its reserve training site
adjacent to the main River Valley School District campus.
petition calls for the Army Reserves to become part of the Marion
Restoration Advisory Board, a panel funded by the federal government
to keep area residents abreast of an ongoing leukemia investigation
at the school and nearby property.
It is to be discussed at
the board’s meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the River Valley High
School cafeteria, during which the panel likely will amend its
charter to allow for such participation, said Don Millard, a board
member and parent of a former student.
The board includes a
cross-section of the community - at least one former student as well
as parents and business leaders - plus officials from the Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. The
corps has been involved, because it is the military’s lead agency
for the investigation and cleanup of the school property. The school
campus, which opened in 1962, was built on a former military
Mr. Millard said he wants the Army Reserves involved
because residents are curious about developments in a parallel
investigation at the adjacent reserve training site, where
contamination has been found in the past. Discarded barrels believed
to be holding some chemical waste were removed from the site in
early 1999. The Army suspended training there because of
"They literally accept no input or
questions from us. They don’t let us question what they’re doing,"
Mr. Millard said.
He said he believes the flow of information
will be enhanced if the Army agrees to put a representative for the
reserve site on the board.
Jeff Steers, assistant director of
the Ohio EPA’s northwest district office in Bowling Green, said that
communications have started to get a little better but that the
agency has had its own frustrations in dealing with the
The Army has a policy that allows it to withhold
much of its information until it releases its final document.
Residents want information released as data is accumulated and
analyzed, Mr. Steers said.
To date, the only way that has
happened is when the Ohio EPA has convinced the Army to release
limited amounts of information. Once it is obtained by the agency,
it is made available to the public in a local library, Mr. Steers
"What’s really bringing this to a head is the fact the
Army hasn’t been forthcoming with some of the information with the
public," he said.
This is not the first time such frustration
has been expressed.
In April of 1999, Ohio EPA Director Chris
Jones sent a tersely worded letter to Brig. Gen. Hans A. Van Winkle
of the corps, demanding to see sampling data that his agency had
been trying to get since the previous December.
month residents accused the corps at a public meeting of withholding
information about cancer-causing vapors that could have been coming
out of ground adjacent to the River Valley girls’ softball diamond
while teams were allowed to play.
An Army spokesman in Fort
Snelling, Minn., said he would not comment about the upcoming board
meeting in Marion.