Elevated cadmium emission at Fort Detrick reviewed

The Maryland Department of the Environment is looking into “potential violations involving operations and procedures” related to a municipal waste incinerator at Fort Detrick, a state spokesman said this week.

MDE spokesman Jay Apperson declined to provide more specific details about what investigators are looking for. The action follows the discovery last year of elevated levels of cadmium that violated the incinerator’s state permit. The levels were recorded during a routine emissions test.

“It’s an active investigation,” Apperson said.

The state allows for 0.10 milligrams of cadmium per dry standard cubic meter. The incinerator in question — one of two municipal waste incinerators at the post — was emitting 0.189 mg/dscm, according to a letter dated Aug. 4 from MDE to Fort Detrick’s Environmental Management Office warning of the violation.

Fort Detrick spokesman Rob Sperling said in an email that post officials “will continue to work with our regulators as a course of our normal business.”

“We have no new information,” Sperling wrote.

The permit violation has been referred to the state Office of the Attorney General for possible enforcement action, Apperson said.

Cadmium is a carcinogen often found in industrial environments. It is also commonly used in batteries, which Detrick blamed as the likely culprit, according to a Sept. 1 letter from Chief Environmental Management Officer Robert Craig to MDE. Another test in September showed levels had returned to compliance, Apperson said.

An awareness campaign was launched last year after the elevated cadmium was discovered, reminding people on post about Fort Detrick’s recycling program and proper disposal practices for batteries and other waste products, Sperling wrote in an email.

The municipal waste incinerators at Fort Detrick are tested annually for particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, dioxin, lead, cadmium, mercury and sulfur dioxide, Apperson said. Two other incinerators at Fort Detrick handle medical waste and have different testing requirements. They have met emission standards on all tests, Apperson said.

Fort Detrick environmental lawyer Gary Zolyak said the post was last found in violation of four conditions of its operating permit about six years ago, but he did not know specific details. MDE officials may be reviewing the permit to ensure various conditions of it, including operating temperatures and combustion times, are not being violated, he said.

“The conditions of the permit are the nuts and bolts of how you operate,” Zolyak said.

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