Apr 5, 2018

"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

Scientists Badgering EPA to Regulate Toxic Perchlorate

One of the many travesties in the failure to properly protect drinking water in the United States is EPA’s decades-long inability to set an enforceable drinking standard for perchlorate, a chemical that harms the thyroid – critical for normal growth and development – and that contaminates drinking water systems serving over 17 million people in the U.S.  EPA determined back in 2011 that perchlorate meets the criteria for regulation as a contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act ... Unfortunately, EPA has long been under strong pressure from industry and the Pentagon and its contractors to avoid setting a strong drinking water standard for perchlorate (DOD is a major source of perchlorate pollution due to its use in rocket fuel and munitions at its facilities across the country).  We sued the Agency in 2016 to set a health-protective drinking water limit for this toxic chemical.  Now, the final peer review report from an expert panel has concluded that EPA should proceed to set a health-protective drinking water standard for perchlorate, even while expressing some concerns that EPA’s approach may still be underestimating the health risks posed by drinking perchlorate (see Final Peer Review report March 2018) ... 
According to a 2010 GAO report, “Perchlorate has been found in water and other media at varying levels in 45 states, as well as in the food supply, and comes from a variety of sources.”  EPA reported that approximately 160 public water supplies tested – serving over 17 million people – had perchlorate at 4 ppb (the lowest level that was looked for) or higher (73 Federal Register 60262, 60270 October 10, 2008).  FDA measured perchlorate in over half of food samples it analyzed, including baby foods and infant formula.  Perchlorate is also in human breast milk (see Kirk et al 2007 and Pearce et al 2007) ... Consumers need reliable information about the health concerns associated with perchlorate, what routes of exposure are of greatest concern, and how to respond to violations in the drinking water standard when they may occur ... After decades of accumulated science on perchlorate’s health harms, and with years of opportunity for public and industry input and comment, it is past time for EPA to protect people’s health by preventing harmful exposure to perchlorate in drinking water.
Jennifer Sass

Mar 22, 2018

Army Corps Proposes MNA to Deal with Perchlorate in Groundwater

Allen Hengst: I have two quick questions about the Groundwater Feasibility Study [stemming] from this sentence in the December Partnering meeting minutes: "USACE Baltimore has been instructed by Headquarters to redraft the Groundwater FS to include ‘Monitored Natural Attenuation’ (MNA) as an alternative" ...  [At the January] RAB meeting, I asked if you had changed the Groundwater FS to address objections by the partners and you said you had added an alternative.  Is this the alternative that you are talking about: "Monitored Natural Attenuation"?

Dan Noble confirmed this.

Hengst: The second question is, assuming you still have Land Use Controls (LUCs) as an alternative, how is MNA  different from LUCs?

Steve Hirsh explained that what is needed is some physical or chemical process that will eventually remediate the groundwater to the point where it could be used as drinking water.  With LUCs, there is no physical or chemical process specified that would degrade the contaminant.  If MNA were selected, the contaminant would be monitored over time to see if the concentration of contaminant is declining.  If the contaminant is not declining, then at some point – usually every 5 years – a decision would be made whether to try a different approach.

Hengst: ... Are the Partners going to accept MNA?

S. Hirsh explained that he had not seen the Groundwater FS yet.  USACE has evaluated the alternatives but has not made a recommendation.

Mar 9, 2018

91 Properties Will Be Screened for Chemical Warfare Materiel

Almost 100 of D.C.’s most expensive homes will soon be screened for remnants of chemical weapons which were test-fired during World War I, WTOP has learned.  Letters have been sent to 91 homeowners in the Spring Valley neighborhood, providing details of how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will inspect their properties, as part of the decades-long cleanup of the World War I chemical weapons testing site on the grounds of American University.  During World War I, about 661 acres in the Northwest section of D.C. were used by the U.S. government for research and testing of chemical agents, equipment and munitions ... Now, the Corps is finalizing plans to screen almost 100 multimillion-dollar homes in an approximately half-mile swath that were within firing range during World War I, as well as homes near a possible disposal area ...
The Spring Valley cleanup project began in 1993, when a contractor unearthed buried military ordnance on 52nd Court Northwest.  Recently, the cleanup has focused on the property at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. Northwest.  A home that had been built on the site was removed in 2012.  Digging is temporarily halted at the site after seven workers were sickened and temporarily hospitalized in August 2017.  Work on the Glenbrook Road site has included labor-intensive hand-digging.  Workers discovered low levels of Mustard and Lewisite, colorless and odorless compounds, which can cause blistering and lung irritation ...
Participation in the screening of the 91 properties is not mandatory. Homeowners will need to sign permission to allow the government to come onto the property ... Following removal of any remnants, and subsequent testing, the Corps will restore the home’s property to how it was before the screening.  Each property will take about 15 days.  If a property is surveyed, and select anomalies removed, the homeowner will receive a closure letter, which can be shared with a realtor or prospective buyer.  The project’s remedial action phase is expected to start in the next few months, and will take about three years to complete.
Neal Augenstein
March 9, 2018

Jan 22, 2018

Army Revises Groundwater FS to Address Impasse with Partners

Dan Noble: USACE Baltimore continues to monitor the disagreement between USACE HQ, the EPA and the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), and will update the RAB as a future agenda topic.  USACE Baltimore also continues to address the comments received from the regulators on the draft Groundwater Feasibility Study.  Once the comments have been addressed and the Groundwater FS has been finalized, the next step in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process is the Groundwater Proposed Plan (PP) ... The first step in the process is to get to the point where USACE Baltimore can finalize the Groundwater FS with DOEE and EPA.  USACE Baltimore continues to work on that and expects, hopefully, by the end of January or early February to have a new submission of the Groundwater FS back to DOEE and EPA.

Allen Hengst: So you are changing the Groundwater FS in response to objections?

Noble explained that USACE is adding an alternative to the various alternatives listed in the Groundwater FS.

Spring Valley FUDS
RAB Meeting Minutes
January 9, 2018 (pg.6)
USACE Baltimore provided a brief update on the status of the Groundwater FS … USACE Baltimore knows that EPA has a different opinion of whether there is a need to restore the groundwater or not.  The response given to EPA was that the CERCLA requires USACE to be protective of human health and the environment and that land use controls do that task.  EPA does not agree with that.  That is a fundamental difference of opinion.  EPA will also still have questions about or perhaps not agree with the premise* that perchlorate cannot be treated because of the arsenic.  EPA does not necessarily agree that is the case.  EPA Region III believed the arsenic in this case is a minor issue.  The arsenic level hovers around the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), and is likely not a plume.  
Spring Valley FUDS
Partnering Meeting Minutes
August 3, 2017 (pgs. 8 - 9)

* Perchlorate can be remediated in-situ through inducing reducing conditions, and there are certain microorganisms that will degrade perchlorate.  For arsenic, oxidizing conditions are preferred; not reducing conditions.  When reducing conditions are present at sites such as landfills, where organics are released and cause reduction, arsenic is frequently mobilized.  This presents a quandary for developing an in-situ treatment for perchlorate that is compatible with arsenic.
Spring Valley FUDS
Partnering Meeting Minutes
April 20, 2017 (pg. 15)

Dec 21, 2017

NPR Broadcast Delves 'Inside America’s Chemical Arms Race'

Joshua Johnson: It's been about a hundred years since the U.S. developed chemical weapons to use during World War I weapons that still, to this day are not fully accounted for ...

Theo Emory: In World War I the American University campus was used as a chemical warfare research facility ... It had people in Spring Valley very concerned and I think, at various times, it had American University concerned.  It was right in the heart of Washington, DC.  There was this huge mystery over what was buried in the ground: what was there, what remained and was it a danger ...

JohnsonLesley emailed, I have a question for Theo: "Would he buy a house or move into the area around AU knowing what he knows about the history of chemical weapons testing and dumping in the area?  It's an ongoing debate in my family."

Emory: It is an ongoing debate and it goes on on a [bimonthly] basis in Spring Valley when the residents get together with the Army Corps of Engineers and talk about updates at the cleanup, which has been going on for 25 years now ...

Dan Noble: The Spring Valley Formerly Used Defense Site is about 650 acres.  We have laid out in a Decision Document that was signed this past June what we feel are some final tasks that we need to do on a site-wide basis to clean up ... And as well, we have an investigation ongoing into some groundwater contamination that's associated with the Experiment Station ...

Emory: There has been some concern in the neighborhood about what AU has disclosed, what they knew and when they knew it ... But, as Dan said, communications are probably better now than they ever have been in the past. 
1A "Speaking Freely"
WAMU-FM 88.5
December 19, 2017

Dec 7, 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 warfare materiel is being removed today. For more information contact ahengst@verizon.net.
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