FREDERICK, Md. – A lawyer reviewing claims made by people who believe chemical testing at Fort Detrick caused a cancer cluster says none of the claims shows any support for their accusations.
The Kristen Renee Foundation, a very vocal group that insists the cancer link is real, says about 200 claims have been filed so far under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Army has received about 40 of them. Lawsuits could come later.
In the claims, individuals say the Fort is responsible for their sickness or the death of a loved one, and they deserve to be paid damages. The damage amounts vary, but some claims are asking for as much as $50 million.
“No claim, none of them, have gone ahead to substantiate their claim,” says Gary Zolyak, an attorney advisor with Fort Detrick, who has reviewed the claims. “The burden really is on the claimant to show that the Army was somehow negligent in its actions at Area B,” says Zolyak.
Area B is the site of a former landfill that leaked contaminants into the groundwater in the 1990s.
Zolyak says he needs to see evidence such as doctor’s opinions, death certificates and scientific studies.
“This has really been the problem with the Foundation’s allegations from the very start. They’ve been making these allegations for almost a year now and at no point, other than providing a very emotional story, have they provided any evidence to anyone,” says Zolyak.
“They simply have nothing that they’re able to present to make a link.”
Zolyak says Detrick is cooperating with every regulatory agency interested in investigating the cancer accusations. That includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Maryland Department of the Environment, The Maryland Department of Health and the Frederick County Health Department.