The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating 35 alleged violations of hazardous-waste regulations at Fort Belvoir, including an allegation that the base failed to seal three dozen toxic chemical storage or treatment areas that could leak.
The allegations, which were sent to the EPA by Virginia's Department of Waste Management, range from failure to submit required paperwork to improper disposal of potentially contaminated oil ignited during firefighting practice.
"Fort Belvoir has a long history of non-compliance," Karol A. Akers told his superiors at the Department of Waste Management after inspecting the facility in February. His memo cited a "lackadaisical approach" by the fort to meeting regulatory deadlines.
Fort Belvoir's deputy commander, Gerald P. Williams, said yesterday that 23 of the 35 alleged violations have been fixed and the rest will be corrected by Dec. 1. "Those issues that we have heretofore quibbled over we are not going to quibble over," he said.
Williams said most of the waste stored in surface or underground tanks consisted of cleaning solvents, paints or motor oil used in base maintenance. "I'm very comfortable that we haven't got anything that's polluting or leaking or going into the air," he said.
Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D), whose Mount Vernon district includes Belvoir, said he would discuss the issue in a meeting with Fort Belvoir officials today.
"The state has raised some very significant questions that the post has got to address, and they've got to address them immediately," he said.
John Ely, the state's hazardous-waste enforcement director, said the extent of environmental contamination is unknown, but "any time you have a potential for hazardous waste going into the ground, you're concerned."
State officials said the base's own tests show ground water near one underground hazardous-waste storage tank was polluted with methylene chloride and carbon tetrachloride. They want Belvoir to perform soil and ground water tests to see if others are leaking, and to seal them.
Williams said the leaking tank was cleaned a year ago and no other tanks are leaking. He said the base will perform soil and water tests to check for past contamination.
He said the base stopped using dirty oil for firefighting training a year ago, and will test for contamination near the disposal area.
Williams said the Army will drop its fight against the state's other major allegation -- that the base stores hazardous waste in some buildings without proper permits -- and would move the waste to a legal site.
The fort's pollution problems highlight a national issue of environmental violations at federal military facilities, which often have escaped state regulation by claiming that they are not subject to state laws. The charges are an embarrassment to the base, which recently announced a recycling campaign, added a new wildlife refuge and began a campaign to polish its environmental image.
Williams, who came to his job a year ago, said base officials accept state environmental regulation and will do everything they are asked.
Under a recently signed Chesapeake Bay cleanup agreement between EPA Administrator William Reilly and Pentagon chief Richard B. Cheney, the Belvoir violations are to be fixed by the end of the year. Ely said the state handed the issue over to the EPA because it does not have the staff to finish in that time.