Washington, DC--In extending its lease at the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) to 2051, the Pentagon failed to comply with federal environmental planning laws, according to a notice to sue filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires environmental study for any significant federal action. The Pentagon, however, failed to conduct required environmental review of the MMR lease extension. Among the environmental issues requiring public review are the Department of the Army's refusal to obey state water clean-up orders and possible construction on buffer zones protecting Cape Cod's sole source of drinking water.
Despite the Army's continuing pollution, the Romney Administration last week signed a new 25-year lease extension for the Army, extending the current lease that runs to 2026 out to 2051. In addition, the Romney Administration has signaled that it will allow construction of a new "Center for Homeland Security" on lands that may threaten already imperiled groundwater.
One of the latest pollution threats at MMR is perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has many other munitions-related uses. It is a possible carcinogen that affects thyroid function. Perchlorate contamination of groundwater by military operations has become a national problem, affecting hundreds of locations in 20 states.
The perchlorate levels reported at MMR are 1.75 parts per billion (ppb), a level substantially above the state advisory of 1 ppb --a standard that means consuming even one glass of contaminated water could be harmful to a pregnant woman or a small child. Perchlorate levels recently found at MMR have more than doubled in the past year, suggesting that the chemical plume is migrating farther into residential areas surrounding the base.
Despite a "Notice of Responsibility" issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Army informed the DEP, on July 21, 2003, that due to unspecified "constraints upon our ability to comply" the Army would not obey the state cleanup order.
"This lease should be subjected to a full environmental review before the state signs away the land through the middle of the century," commented New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist who formerly worked in EPA's New England regional office. "The purpose of the environmental review is to ensure that critical pollution problems such as perchlorate are addressed at the outset and not put off indefinitely while conditions worsen."
See the PEER Notice to Sue the Defense Department on the MMR Lease Extension under NEPA
Read the New England PEER Comments on the Lease Extension
View the DEP Notice of Responsibility for MMR