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Army slow to inform residents of toxic test results near Fort Gillem

AN UPDATE:  The Army confirms that the residents in six homes have been told of the results. They added that the technology used to analyze air samples can detect many chemicals that are present in homes that are not a result of past U.S. Army activities.

Last week, we reported on problems with environmental contamination near Fort Gillem, south of Atlanta.

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A fence along the border of Fort Gillem in Forest Park. The base closed in 2011. Bob Andres/AJC

A quick recap: Tests conducted by the U.S. Army concluded that at least 26 nearby homes have high levels of toxic chemicals, exposing residents to potential health hazards in the air they breathe. The toxic vapor may be coming from contaminated groundwater stretching off the base in a nearly mile long plumes.

It turns out the Army is taking it’s time letting residents know whether they’re at risk.

Although the vapor intrusion tests were conducted in early August, military brass had only notified six residents of the results as of Wednesday.  That information is from state officials. The Army has yet to respond to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s questions.

Their lone statement to the newspaper so far is the following:

“The U.S. Army is engaged in a complex and technical study to assess whether vapors from groundwater pollutants leaving Fort Gillem have impacted the surrounding community.  The U.S. Army has been and continues to be in frequent contact with GA environmental regulators, EPA, and the community.”

 Under its agreement with the state, the Army is supposed to offer up mitigation _ such as new ventilation systems _ to homes that hit certain contamination benchmarks. That hasn’t happened so far.

The extent of the contamination near the abandoned Army depot prompted a rebuke from Gov. Nathan Deal who urged the Army to pick up the pace as it cleans up the mess it left behind. Among the chemicals detected are known carcinogens, like benzene.

More than 200 homes must still be tested in the neighborhood.

We’ll keep checking in to monitor the progress.



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