Cheltenham Veteran's Cemetery Troubles Timeline

Dec. 30: Outrage sparked when at least 56 graves are disturbed after a tractor gets stuck in mud during a hasty late-day burial.

Dec. 31: As repairs are made, Md. Sec. of Veteran's Affairs Edward Chow apologizes to families for an "unacceptable mistake" and promises a review of cemetery operations.

Jan. 1: Whistle blower alleges illegal dumping and other evidence of sloppy operations at the cemetery. WUSA9 documents waste, including tires, suspected plastic items and a small American flag, dumped in two open pits. Abandoned vehicles and equipment, haphazard piles of construction waste, and suspected uncontrolled sediment on graded ground are also observed within clear view of the cemetery's hallowed burial grounds.

Jan. 2: Spokesman for Veteran's Affairs Secretary Edward Chow promises an investigation and clean up. Chow says the dignity of veterans is protected.

Jan 3: Prince George's County and state officials inspect the cemetery, and find suspected dump pits documented by WUSA9 have been covered over and graded. Officials tape off area and plan for a follow-up excavation with heavy equipment to search for evidence of buried waste. Veteran's Affairs spokesman says the pits were cleaned out before being covered over.

Jan 6: County issues citations for illegal dumping of abandoned vehicles, equipment and other bulk waste observed on the property within sight of graves. Cemetery is given 2 weeks to comply with clean up orders or face hefty fines.

Jan 16: Officials re-inspect the cemetery and find that abandoned vehicles and bulk waste have been removed while ground cover has been spread to prevent erosion. Follow-up excavation with heavy equipment finds no evidence that illegal waste was left in open pits before they were covered over. The pits contained numerous marker stones that were disposed of after being replaced with updated stones on gravesites. These are considered "clean fill". State and county inspectors declare the cemetery in-compliance with environmental regulations.


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