In October 20, 1917, the U.S. Army’s oldest active proving ground was established located in Aberdeen, Maryland. Chemical weapons were developed on these grounds, and the U.S. Army used the Aberdeen Proving Ground to develop, test, store, and dispose of chemical weapons. Three chemical engineers named Carl Gepp, William Dee, and Robert Lentz, who were high-level, senior management levels at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, would eventually become notoriously known as the Aberdeen Three.
In 1976 the Resource Conservation Recovery Act was passed. This act is a main federal law in the United States that governs disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste. The act also generates criminal liability for anyone who knowingly handles hazardous waste without an RCRA permit. The Aberdeen Proving Grounds complied with the RCRA regulation and obtained a permit for management of hazardous waste materials at the proving grounds; however, only three separate areas at Aberdeen were designated for storage of hazardous wastes under this permit, and it did not allow storage, treatment, or disposal of hazardous wastes at the Pilot Plant or the Old Pilot Plant where the three engineers worked.
In 1982, Aberdeen announced a regulation called APG 200-2. The procedure was simple. Managers were to report any waste materials that were believed to be toxic, carcinogenic, caustic, ignitable, or reactive and were required to fill out a form known as a hard card. Once a hard card was received, designated Aberdeen organizations were responsible for transporting hazardous wastes to the permitted storage areas. The APG 200-2 regulation was both specific and extremely thorough. A standard operating procedure was issued in 1982 and reissued in 1984 as CRDCR 710-1.
Following the implementation of the RCRA and Aberdeen’s own APG 200-2 and CRDCR 710-1 regulations and procedures, between 1983 and 1986, a series of issues and violations were discovered during periodic inspections at the Pilot Plant facility where all three chemical engineers worked and were designated as managers. A few identified problems were flammable and carcinogenic substances left out in the open, chemicals were kept in the same room that would become lethal if they were to be mixed, and a number of drums containing toxic substances were leaking. Three neglectful and disastrous instances occurred at the Pilot Plant between the years 1985 and 1988. Firstly, a roof collapsed and several chemical drums stored below were smashed leaving the spilled substance and broken containers for weeks and no one took the initiative to clean it up during that time. Secondly, an instance of 200 gallons of acid from an external sulfuric acid tank leaked into a nearby river. And thirdly, upon state and federal investigations, they revealed that the chemical retaining dikes were unfit and a system that was initially designed to contain and treat hazardous chemicals was extremely corroded which caused chemicals to leak into the...