Fifth Freedom of Information Appeal Denied

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Original Environmental Findings Still Sequestered From Public

MERRIMAC — In August 1998, an independent environmental investigation
of Badger Army Ammunition Plant was completed by Plexus Scientific
Corporation of Silver Spring, Maryland. Seven months later, following
an internal review by Army officials and representatives of Olin
Corporation (the operating contractor at Badger), a revised version of
the Environmental Baseline Study (EBS) was released to the public.
Despite more than 2 years of appeals under the Freedom of Information
Act by CSWAB, the contents of the original unedited report remain a
federal secret.

An EBS is required by federal law to provide an independent assessment
of the environmental condition of excess federal property and is used to
determine the suitability for transfer to the General Services
Administration (GSA). The study is also intended to provide government
agencies, future owners, and the general public with an independent
assessment of known or potential environmental concerns. The
publicly-funded study identifies site contamination, including the types
and quantities of hazardous substances on the site parcels. In addition
to known solid waste disposal sites, the study identifies potential
environmental and human health concerns such as water systems,
pesticide/herbicide use and storage, lead-based paint, and chemical
spills.

CSWAB contends that the public and potential future owners should have
access to the original unedited report; the Army and Olin could provide
its comments instead as an addendum. The requested report, CSWAB
maintains, is not a matter of national security, nor does it effect or
impact the mission of the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense and
therefore should be readily disclosed.

Requests up through the Army hierarchy recently ended when CSWAB
received a fifth and final denial from the U.S. Army Pentagon. The
March 20, 2001 letter from the Army Pentagon contends the information
requested by CSWAB for the purpose of public disclosure is “both
pre-decisional and deliberative in nature.” The Army claims such a
disclosure would “place a chilling effect on open, frank discussions on
environmental policy matters.”

According to counsel for the Secretary of the Army, the letter
constitutes a final action on behalf of their office to consider appeals
Freedom of Information Act. The next step available to CSWAB is to seek
judicial review of the Army’s decision through the federal court system.

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