Army Seeks to Dismiss Class-Action Suit over Contamination at Ft. Detrick

The Army has asked a federal court to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed last August by residents of Frederick, Md., seeking $750 million in compensation for the deaths and illnesses caused by contaminated soil and groundwater at Fort Detrick.

Decades ago, the Army dumped sludge from its former decontamination plants, ashes from its incinerators, potentially radioactive sludge from a sewage disposal plant, drums of the industrial solvent trichloroethylene and other hazardous substances into unlined pits at the post’s Area B, reported the Frederick News-Post. About 200 people are involved in the suit, which claims the contaminants are responsible for cancer and other terminal illnesses they or their relatives experienced.

The state, however, has been unable to verify the existence of a cancer cluster in the residential neighborhoods outside Fort Detrick.

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein argued that the government has sovereign immunity from the suit and the Army can use its own judgment to decide whether to conduct a cleanup. Residents’ claims of suffering were vague and “allege unspecified acts of negligence by Fort Detrick that caused unspecified injuries and occurred at unspecified times,” Rosenstein stated in court documents.

Past lawsuits alleging damages caused by contamination at Fort Detrick have been denied.

In January 2015, a federal judge dismissed a housing developer’s $37 million lawsuit against the federal government alleging the Army’s negligent practices contaminated the groundwater underneath land outside of Fort Detrick where it planned to build 732 homes.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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