|Forest Park, Georgia|
|First Army shoulder sleeve insignia|
|Controlled by||U.S. Army|
Fort Gillem is a United States Army military base located in Forest Park, Georgia, on the southeast edge of Atlanta in Clayton County. Founded in 1941, it was a satellite installation of nearby Fort McPherson. The base houses different supply and support units, including the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory and the 3rd MP Group (CID), both units of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command. It employs 456 active duty personnel, 1,663 Army reservist, and 1,667 civilians. In 1973, its 1,465 acres (5.93 km2) were annexed by Forest Park. The fort was named in the memory of Lieutenant General Alvan Cullom Gillem, Jr..
The US Army established Fort Gillem in 1940 with the simultaneous construction of the Atlanta Quartermaster Depot and the Atlanta Ordnance Depot, which were mostly completed by December 1942. The two installations operated separately until April 1, 1948, when consolidated physically and operationally as the 'Atlanta Army Depot', a subcommand of the Army Materiel Command. The Atlanta Army Depot was deactivated on June 28, 1974.
Buried landfills have contaminated ground water under neighborhoods north and south of Gillem. Inspectors will sample indoor air early summer 2014 for vapor intrusion. As of September 2014, 40 homes had been tested and 26 homes were found to have elevated levels of benzene and trichlorethylene. The chemicals, which entered the homes through groundwater, are those commonly used to strip metal" per the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The Army plans to install air ventilation systems in these homes to "eliminate or greatly reduce any risk". If higher levels are found in any other homes, larger mitigation efforts will be undertaken during which residents would relocate.
The Base contained landfills that were very specific in nature. There are several ordnance items that contained Chemical Agents such a Nerve Agents and even blister agents. One specific case includes a Mustard Gas Bomb that was seized from Nazi Germany. This is one of the few actual cases that the memorandum of record from the Department of Defense had been declassified. In 2003 several residential homes and households that were in proximity to the Fort Gillem Base Perimeter began getting sick. The source of origin was the well water. What actually occurred was that for Gillem was being used as a facility to take samples of chemical weapons that were being seized from Nazi Germany, and the government was trying to re-created such chemical weapons. There are actually two sewage plants at Fort Gillem. This is suspicious because the size of for Gillem is not that large. So the need to have two sewage plants certainly raises red flag. What certain subject matter experts believe is that one sewage plant was utilized for sewage purposes. The second sewage plant was being utilized to dilute the chemicals and other hazardous materials that were being created to replicate the chemical agents that had been seized from Nazi Germany. Once the chemicals were diluted they were poured back into the ground. There are several unaccounted for munitions and other chemicals that were buried all over Fort Gillem. Bunkers on Fort Gillem contained nerve agents and before the base was officially closed the munitions were taken by a specialized unit, Tech-Escort (CBRNE), to an undisclosed location. More than likely the munitions were taken to a facility called the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant for observation, quarantine, and demilitarization. There are also 5 other obsolete bunkers on the active portion of Fort Gillem. Contrary to popular belief, Fort Gillem is still in use today. The bunkers subsequently collapsed from within. The contents of the bunkers and whether or not munitions or chemical agents were stored is still unknown to date. The Department of Defense has denied access to the area for several safety reasons. The bunkers are within a short range of occupied areas of human life. Exploitation of those bunkers could be very costly and dangerous.
The US Army had originally offered to give Fort Gillem to the Georgia Army National Guard. This is usually a common practice. The Georgia Army National Guard was aware of such contamination and also aware the US Army Corps of Engineers had estimated that it would cost approx. (1) billion dollars in tax money to environmentally remediate the base. Therefore the base was closed and for some strange reason the Army authorized the Base to be divided into 2 sections. The first section contains the only US Army Crime lab. The second section that was closed down is now being sold to companies like Kroger. Kroger is now planning to make a food distribution center on top of what is expected to be the most contaminated area of Fort Gillem.
Base closure and redevelopment
On May 13, 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure commission recommended that Fort Gillem, along with Fort McPherson and the Navy Supply Corps School be closed. An exit ceremony was held at Fort Gillem on June 3, 2011, and First Army troops stationed there were transferred to the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois.
In 2012, after five years of negotiations with the Army, the City of Forest Park purchased 1,170 acres comprising most of the former Fort Gillem for $30 million, and ownership was transferred to the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Implementation Local Redevelopment Authority (ILRA). City officials wanted mixed-use development on the property, but following the housing crash turned their focus to industrial, manufacturing, warehouse and business park development. The only private residences are a 125-unit development owned by The Park, which has a lease with the Army until 2025. There are around 165 acres of contaminated groundwater on the site the cleanup of which the Army is responsible for. The clean up of the land was expected to take ten years.
It was decided to list Fort Gillem on the National Priorities List (NPL) of superfunds. On June 3, the Director of Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division, 2013, Judson Turner, requested from USEPA Region IV that the decision be postponed.
On May 2, 2014 officials from the city and the Department of Defense under exclusion of the public held a ceremony at Fort Gillem to commemorate the impending move. The city is partnering with an unknown developer and hopes it will be booming again, when land re-enters the city and county’s tax digest and "companies such as Porsche North America [are] moving their headquarters to the Forest Park and Hapeville area".
- Army Defense Environmental Restoration Program (24 January 2013). "FY2012 GILLEM Installation Action Plan Printed 24 January 2013 Army Defense Environmental Restoration Program". http://aec.army.mil/Portals/3/IAP/GA-Gillem.pdf.
- Elliott, Richard (7 May 2014). "The U.S. Army soon to inspect neighborhoods for harmful vapors". WSB-TV Cox Media Group. Retrieved 10 May 2014. "The Georgia Environmental Protection Division said the landfills, which were buried there years ago, contain things like engine oil, cleaning solvents and rubber."
- Michelle Wirth (6 September 2014). "Toxic Vapor Discovered In Homes Near Fort Gillem". WABE 90.1, Atlanta's NPR station (National Public Radio). Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Fort Gillem, New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- Kathy Jefcoats,"Forest Park buys Fort Gillem for $30 million". Clayton News Daily. 13 January 13, 2012.
- Judson Turner (3 June 2013). "Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division". EPA. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Yeomans, Curt (2 May 2014). "Forest Park, Army celebrate impending Ft. Gillem transfer". Clayton News Daily. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Fort Gillem official website
- Forrest Park/Fort Gillem redevelopment program (forestparkga.org)
- Fort Gillem at GlobalSecurity.org