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Ft. Detrick - Frederick's Friend or Foe?
David 'Kip' Koontz

April 17, 2002

Smallpox. Hantavirus. Rift Valley Fever. Listeria. Neisseria Meningitidis. Klebsiella Pneumoniae. Ebola.

These words invoke confusion, as we don't know what some of them are. These words invoke fear, as we do know what some of them are.

Either way, these words mean trouble. They are virulent nasty diseases that lead, in part, to death.

Our hometown is home to Ft. Detrick. All of the above diseases reside or will reside above, under or in the ground at Ft. Detrick.

Ft. Detrick has been here since 1943 and employs lots and lots of Frederick residents. Ft. Detrick is vital to national security and to Frederick.

Does Ft. Detrick have the potential to become deadly?

Many know that Ft. Detrick exists when they move here.

How many take the time to research what kind of base it is?

Do we have the resources to find out the truth?

As one drives west along Rosemont Avenue, all one has to do is look to the right to see a multi-story, boarded up building. It is boarded up because it housed anthrax. The anthrax leaked and the building became contaminated.

This is where things get confusing. Depending to whom one speaks, the building was decontaminated years ago, thus it is claimed to be safe. Others say that since the building is contaminated to the core of the very bricks it is made of, it will take another 100+ years before it could be called safe.

Either way, it stands there boarded up.

Some say that the materials located at the fort, if released into the atmosphere, would kill everyone on the East Coast.

Authorities say that the amount of material at the fort is in such small quantity that if released there isn't enough to do that much harm.

They say that the potentially harmful material is so far under ground that it wouldn't get airborne anyway. Pity the groundhogs.

They go on to say that if, by some fluke, it did get airborne, the organisms just die quickly and pose little or no risk. If the organisms don't die, the prevailing winds would carry it out to sea.

Does that mean watch out downtown Frederick? What happens to Baltimore?

Polluted water has been found at the fort. Polluted ground has been found at the fort.

Authorities will tell you that the water isn't drinking water and that the ground and water pollution at Ft. Detrick is contained to the fort. Is that possible?

You can't blame the current guardians of the fort for the mistakes of their forefathers. People were simply ignorant.

They didn't know that if you throw hazardous materials in the ground and water that it will eventually pollute and make hazardous that ground and water.

The current guardians are responsive to - and look for ways to dispose of - hazardous waste, when they find it.

The questions raised by many out here in the civilian world, is something like, "Why aren't they pro-actively looking for this stuff?" "Don't they have records and the like, so they know where this stuff is?"

It is imperative we research ways to combat these diseases, and, thankfully, they have been successful at finding vaccines to combat some of this stuff. For instance, the smallpox vaccine that is currently used was developed at Ft. Detrick.

Yet, why does the government set itself up to answer questions such as this by plopping these facilities in heavily populated areas?

Anyone who has gone to the Wings Over Frederick Air Show the last couple of years got to see a demonstration of what it would be like if there were a hazardous material leak.

They say it is a re-enactment of what would happen at Ft. Detrick, if the worst-case scenario occurred.

One also hears of that our emergency personnel have prepared for an emergency at the fort.

That raises the final question.

While the chance of accident, or leak, or trouble is remote, what are we, as residents in the shadow of the fort, supposed to do if the worst-case scenario happens?

Do we wait until the fateful day that we have an emergency at the fort in order to find out?

Is it possible for that kind of information to be disseminated in advance without causing an unnecessary panic? It is possible that if you try to be proactive in that regard, people would assume that something is already happening - thus panic.

Can we even know what to do in advance, as it would be necessary to respond to the event that is occurring at the time?

When Three Mile Island's nuclear power plant was about to blow, sirens blared and some fled. Yet the banks of the Susquehanna River were lined with onlookers as the emergency plan dealt with only those who lived on the island with the plant.

That has subsequently changed. It took near disaster for change to happen.

Many people seem to distrust anything military and anything government, especially when there needs to be some secrecy involved.

Some secrecy is needed with what goes on at Ft. Detrick.

Some would say that we would never know if something happened at the fort.

That is simply poppycock. We would find out one way or another.

Let us just hope that the worst-case scenario never happens and if it does, that the authority's contentions are true.

Just in case though, are we supposed to head west?


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