Mar 9, 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

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
WTOP News
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

Nov 28, 2017

Army Will Bore 15 Holes through 4835 Glenbrook Basement Dec. 4

The cleanup of a World War I chemical weapons testing site is on hold for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares to drill holes in the basement of the American University president’s official residence, looking for evidence of discarded munitions.  More than five years after the house at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. NW, was removed, and as the cleanup of toxic munitions neared completion, the Army Corps will soon bore approximately 15 2-inch holes through the basement foundation, and in the yard and back patio of 4835 Glenbrook Rd. ... In a Sept. meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, project manager Brenda Barber said recent testing has found low levels of Mustard and Lewisite, which were used in World War I chemical weapons.
The colorless and odorless compounds can cause blistering and lung irritation.  Barber said the test bores will be done the week of Dec. 4 ... Barber said it is premature to discuss the possibility that remediation could include razing the home, which is currently valued at $3,898,350, according to D.C.’s Office of Tax and Revenue.  “I don’t want to be predecisional, but we definitely are doing our due diligence,” said Barber.  Regardless, Barber said it is unlikely excavation will resume in the next several months, so the Army Corps will essentially shut-down the site, save for a skeleton staff ... The university’s new president, Sylvia Burwell, had planned to live in the home, which is owned by the university, but will not, because of the ongoing work.  The recent discovery and upcoming testing is causing a substantial delay to the cleanup project.
Neal Augenstein
WTOP News
November 28, 2017

Nov 3, 2017

Please Don't "Minimize" Overdue Cleanup at 4835 Glenbrook Road

I’m grateful for The Current’s tenacious coverage of the Army Corps’ ongoing 24-year cleanup of World War I-era munitions and chemical contamination in Northwest Washington.  Your Sept. 27 article — “Spring Valley munitions cleanup to scrutinize AU president’s house” — was a typically concise and accurate report on the Army’s recent decision to look again at the vacant 4835 Glenbrook Road NW home (a controversial location, which officials previously insisted did not constitute a health threat to the community).  It took the hospitalization of seven of its own cleanup crew members after exposure to chemical agent on Aug. 9 before the Army finally reconsidered its premature closeout of the investigation there [“Glenbrook Road munitions cleanup paused after workers hospitalized,” Aug. 16, The Current].  I take exception to project manager Dan Noble casting doubt on construction workers’ recent statements — that 4835 Glenbrook (the American University president’s house) was built atop hazardous materials — by claiming that the worker’s comments in the 1990s about 4825 Glenbrook (the adjoining property) were more accurate ...  
I speak as the filmmaker who provided transcripts to the Army Corps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment from two decades of my interviews with these workers ... At the May 2016 and May 2017 meetings of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board, these same workers drove from their homes in West Virginia to speak out publicly with courage and conviction concerning their eyewitness observations of chemical warfare materiel buried under the concrete beneath 4835 Glenbrook Road.  Yet the Army Corps keeps trying to minimize or deny the eyewitness testimony of the real heroes of Spring Valley.  The dozen or so test pits, which the Army now intends to drill along the basement wall of 4835 Glenbrook’s perimeter, are a good start. But more thorough testing throughout the basement, crawl space and garage of 4835 is needed to truly investigate these persistent memories of coverup.
Ginny Durrin
Northwest Current
November 1, 2017

Oct 31, 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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