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 lawsuit filed today by the Alliance for Base Cleanup and 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 signed a new 25-year lease extension for the Army this past September, 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" that may threaten already imperiled groundwater.
"Given the past record of the military at MMR, it is unconscionable that this lease would be extended without environmental review," stated Richard Hugus of the Alliance for Base Cleanup, a group formed in 1990 by Cape Code residents to investigate pollution caused by operations at MMR. "A democratic, public process for this important decision never took place. Deals were made between the Pentagon, the state National Guard apparatus, and the Romney Administration behind closed doors. How else could the largest polluter on Cape Cod, and indeed, the nation, get away with no oversight?" said Mr. Hugus.
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.
Last spring, perchlorate levels reported in a residential well just outside the base were measured at 1.75 parts per billion (ppb), a level above the state advisory of 1 ppb. Perchlorate levels recently found in groundwater at MMR reach as high as 370 parts per billion. 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 provide bottled water to affected homeowners.
"This lease extension adds 25 years onto an existing 23 year lease, thus sealing the area's custody by the Pentagon for the next half century," commented New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist who formerly worked in EPA's New England regional office. "Given profound pollution problems being uncovered daily, turning a blind eye toward a potential environmental catastrophe would be irresponsible."
To view a copy of the ABC/PEER lawsuit.
Read the New England PEER Comments on the Lease Extension.
Read the Alliance for Base Cleanup Comments on the Lease Extension.