Sep 27, 2017

"The area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
Donald Rumsfeld

Army Will Peek for Munitions Under AU President’s House

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to drill 12 to 15 holes in the basement of 4835 Glenbrook Road NW, after environmental remediation workers suffered apparent chemical exposure along the Spring Valley home’s property line.  The property — the currently vacant official residence for American University’s president — adjoins the neighborhood’s most infamous address: 4825 Glenbrook, where the Army’s cleanup efforts have included razing a home and excavating down to bedrock.  The news came at the Sept. 12 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, a body that oversees the Army’s cleanup of World War I-era munitions and chemical contamination in Spring Valley and the American University campus.  “We didn’t see any of this previously,” the Army’s Brenda Barber said at the meeting.  Barber said the Army doesn’t expect to demolish 4835 Glenbrook, but officials added that the possibility exists if the investigation uncovers dangerous chemicals below the home. “If there are chemical agents under the house, we’re not going to leave them there,” the Army’s Dan Noble said.
Sylvia Burwell, the new American University president, had originally planned to move into the property but now will not.  Christine Dieterich, who lives across the street at 4830 Glenbrook, blasted the cleanup leadership for saying previously there were no problems at 4835.  During the major cleanup of 4825, she took her two small children to live in a nearby rental apartment to ensure their safety.  “You tell me my kids are safe,” she said at the meeting, which she attended with her attorney.  “You don’t have a clue” ... A board of investigation has interviewed the workers and their medical personnel, and is reviewing all project data of the day of the incident as well as the project’s work plans, procedures and safety protocols.  A report is due by the end of October.  Several residents active on the Spring Valley cleanup issue have pointed to comments by construction workers who built 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook in the early 1990s.  Some workers said in 2013 that both houses were built atop hazardous materials, but Noble said that information contradicts workers’ 1990s accounts.
Northwest Current
September 27, 2107 (pg. 3)

Aug 16, 2017

Glenbrook Road Cleanup Halted after Seven Workers Hospitalized

Workers cleaning up a contaminated Spring Valley property were hospitalized last Wednesday after suffering symptoms of possible chemical exposure, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the cleanup effort.  In response to the Aug. 9 incident, the Army has suspended excavation at the 4825 Glenbrook Road NW property and is now reviewing its next steps ... The Army Corps has been cleaning up the Spring Valley neighborhood since 1993, when it became clear that the area had been contaminated by World War I-era chemical munitions testing conducted by the U.S. Army at American University.  The property at 4825 Glenbrook is perhaps the neighborhood’s most notorious, and the Army tore down the home in 2012 to fully investigate the site and remove its soil down to bedrock.  
Last Wednesday, workers were hand-digging along the property line between 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook — American University’s official president’s residence, which is currently unoccupied — when they suffered “eye and skin irritation and other minor symptoms,” according to a [Aug. 10] message from the Army to the community.  The workers reported an odor consistent with mustard breakdown products, and seven of them were hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon and released that night.  The work was taking place in a section of the property that the Army terms “low probability” — meaning that it had fewer protections than “high probability” locations, where excavation was conducted under the cover of a protective tent ... The workers were hand-digging between 5 and 10 feet below ground level when the possible exposure occurred, according to [Army Corps spokesperson Christopher] Gardner.  

They were wearing gloves and other protective clothing ... It may take months before excavation resumes at 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook, Gardner said, pending the results of the Army’s review.  In the meantime, protective plastic sheeting is covering the area where the workers suffered possible exposure, and investigators will be on site this week testing for the presence of various chemicals there.  According to Gardner, the workers had been finding scattered pieces of broken glass related to the Army’s World War I-era activities, and areas of soil there were contaminated with “small black chunks of material with low levels of mustard agent and agent breakdown product.”  Once the project resumes, excavation will take place on both sides of the property line, Gardner said.
Brady Holt
Northwest Current
August 16, 2017

Late yesterday afternoon around 3pm, while hand digging soils along the shared property line, our teams began exhibiting symptoms of possible exposure.  This included eye and skin irritation and other minor symptoms.  The teams were in level D Personal Protective Equipment with a slung mask (paper Tyvek suit, rubber over boots, and nitrile gloves) while hand excavating soils.  The teams underwent decontamination on site and were sent for medical monitoring per our safety plans and procedures.  Seven team members were transported to George Washington Hospital at approximately 4pm.  The team received another decontamination shower courtesy of the hospital staff, then medical monitoring began.  The team underwent urinalysis for mustard exposure and blood samples were taken from everyone ... 

There were no detections on any of our air monitoring equipment during the excavation activities that would indicate agent migrated away the excavation area, but the team did note they smelled an odor at the excavation area which could indicate the presence of mustard breakdown products ... The MINICAMS, our first line of detection, did not detect any signs of contaminants in the air.  Additionally, the handheld equipment to monitoring for arsine and hydrogen chloride (HCL) did not detect any contaminants ... The DAAMs tube results for yesterday indicate no agent was detected at any of the perimeter locations or the dig site location as well so we had no sign of any agent or agent breakdown products outside of the soil itself where crews were working.
Carrie Johnston
Glenbrook Road Project Special Update
August 10, 2017

Jul 26, 2017

Spring Valley FUDS Cleanup Extends to AU South Campus

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its investigation of munitions-related contamination in the Spring Valley area, including the site of American University’s recently demolished Public Safety Building.  The small 1960s building was located on the south end of campus near Rockwood Parkway NW, where the Army conducted chemical weapons testing during the World War I era.  The Army Corps has been cleaning up areas of the campus and dozens of nearby homes for 25 years.  Brenda Barber, an Army Corps project manager, provided a community update on the cleanup progress at the July 11 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board.  The Army will look for buried munitions and contaminated soil at the Public Safety Building site and will remove any hazards it finds.  The site will then be turned back over to the university, probably in early 2018.
Northwest Current

July 26, 2017 

Jun 30, 2017

Worker Recants Taking Chemical Bottle from 4835 Glenbrook Road

The Fry family (father and two sons) attended the May RAB and made some significant claims about their recollections of their activities at 4825 Glenbrook Road and 4835 Glenbrook Road during the construction of the 2 properties.  During and after the meeting, James Fry (the father) indicated he had taken a liter bottle of liquid from 4835 Glenbrook Road and kept the bottle in a safety deposit box in West Virginia ... That afternoon [May 17], the USACE District Engineer (DE) contacted the father and the son.  During the conversation with the USACE DE, James Fry admitted that he lied about the bottle to see if he could get USACE’s attention ...  The USACE DE informed the FBI of the details of his call with James Fry.  The FBI ran background checks on James Fry and decided to close the file unless additional information was received.  EPA Region III noted that the case was handled by EPA’s criminal enforcement division

The concern was if there was a bottle with chemical agent in a safe deposit box in a bank somewhere.  Even though the bottle may have been there for 20 years, it is not known if the bottle was leaking or not, or if the bottle may leak in the future.  USACE has significant concerns about the credibility of this family now ... The areas of debris on 4835 Glenbrook Road that the Fry family is recalling are now under the poured basement floor and in the crawlspace.  In order to even investigate the Fry family’s potential claims the process of investigation would significantly damage the home ... P. Chrostowski, CPF Associates, commented that ... American University would like the issue to be resolved definitively, but he believed that the issue is similar to that of the Public Safety Building where there may be something underneath the house, but as long as it is undisturbed it is not a hazard to anyone. 
Spring Valley FUDS
Partnering Meeting minutes
June 13, 2017 (pgs. 4 - 7)

Tom Smith: If you went back to [the workers] with a formal invitation from the RAB, expressing our interest in their participation in a site visit and coming to the RAB meeting to share information with us, do you think that they would not do that?  Do you think their reluctance to commit to a site visit could be because it is USACE making the invitation?

Dan Noble explained that he did not know the reason.  His concerns are that he does not know what USACE could do with the information the Fry family might provide, and the veracity of what the Fry family says, based on what has happened since the May RAB meeting.

Smith: But I think that is something you judge after you hear it.  I hear the concern about the bottle.  I also can understand, if you are telling me that I am going to have the FBI down my back, I am going to tell you that I do not have it anymore ... There has been so much talk over the years about what the workers knew or did not know.  What we are hearing, from talking to a couple real estate agents over the weekend, is that housing prices in the neighborhood are being depressed.  When I ask “why,” I am told it is because of the munitions issue.  When I say “why now, given that this has been an issue for many, many years and has not really had the impact,” what I am being told is the perception out there is that it is starting back up again ... 


Mary Douglas: A neighbor, who seems pretty knowledgeable and is starting a magazine about this area, said that prices are depressed about 10% below what they would be.  I think the one reason that they may be somewhat depressed in some areas is because of the 100 house examination for munitions ... I went on this website called D.C. Urban Moms where there was a lot of hysterical talk [sic] by these young mothers about how they would never buy in Spring Valley.   
Spring Valley RAB
Summary of Conference Call
June 15, 2017 (pgs. 4 - 10)

Jun 1, 2017

Demolition of Public Safety Building Will Begin in June

The Public Safety Building, located on the south end of campus behind Anderson and Letts Halls, will be demolished this month, according to memos released by AU officials ... David Dower, the University’s assistant vice president of planning and project management, wrote in a May 15 memo that the demolition will begin on or about June 1 ... A 2015 report released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) revealed that there are likely residual World War I munitions buried beneath the Public Safety building.  During World War I, AU was used as a testing site for military weapons, including ammunition and chemical weapons.  Following the war, land owned by the University was used to bury hazardous materials and remaining munitions, The Eagle previously reported ... Kelly Alexander, AU’s director of public relations, said the University notified ACE in May 2016 that it intended to demolish the building in conjunction with the opening of East Campus and wanted ACE to finish its remediation work required for the area. 
“The Army Corps allocated funds in its current budget for the [building’s] remediation work and is in the process of developing the work and safety plans for this project,” Alexander said in an email ... Following the demolition, Dower wrote in his May 15 memo that AU expects ACE to conduct additional remediation activities in the area during the fall 2017 semester ... “Once they get to the foundation, we would plan to have our crews carry out the rest of the removal,” [ACE communications official Chris] Gardner said.  “Once the foundation is removed, we would work to excavate a great deal of the material below the foundation as we work to remove debris.  Our crews will also sample the soil, testing for any potential contaminants that could stem from past military activity and removing any contaminated soils.”  The timeframe for the removal project depends on what ACE encounters at the site, Gardner said.
Haley Samsel
The Eagle
June 1, 2017

May 23, 2017

Environmental Group Leads Toxic Tours of Former WW I Army Base

AUES Spring Valley tours provide context to better understand the issues surrounding the cleanup of this Formerly Used Defense Site. Tours focus on historical features of the American University Experiment Station, the current Army Corps of Engineers cleanup operations and residents’ health problems. Tours are led by a former Restoration Advisory Board member and Spring Valley resident. Each tour takes approximately 1½ hours.  Participants see where testing occurred during World War I and where chemical munitions are being removed today. For more information contact ahengst@verizon.net.
 
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