Dec 3, 2008

Army Corps Ally Planted on Cleanup Restoration Advisory Board

Alma Gates, an outgoing Spring Valley-Palisades advisory neighborhood commissioner, took a seat on the advisory board on Nov. 13 after the Army Engineers recommended her. The board serves as a civilian observer of the Army's multiyear cleanup of the chemical munitions buried in the ground during and after World War I, when the area was a military ordnance test site ... [Army Corps Spring Valley project manager Dan] Noble, in an email to [advisory neighborhood commissioner Tom] Smith on Nov. 14, said he was "delighted that Principal Whisenant accepted our recommendation of Alma Gates," whom he called a "steady presence."
Charlie Bermpohl
Northwest Current ~ (December 3, 2008: pg 5)

Nov 15, 2008

Perchlorate Problem Proves Persistent near DC Reservoir

More testing for groundwater problems in Northwest Washington neighborhoods where the U.S. Army researched chemical weapons during World War I has found new locations of perchlorate contamination, at some of the highest levels detected to date, according to officials. Undetermined is whether the contamination could end up in the Dalecarlia Reservoir or the Washington Aqueduct, both of which supply drinking water to more than 1 million people in the metropolitan area ... Perchlorate, a compound that was used nine decades ago in tests with mustard agent and screening smokes, can disrupt thyroid function and can contribute to developmental delays and infertility.

Given that two of the wells are just west of major disposal pits, the December findings were not surprising. They showed levels of 60 and 70 parts per billion, which exceed the previous high of 58 parts per billion detected in 2003 on the grounds of Sibley Memorial Hospital and are more than double a federal recommendation for perchlorate cleanup. Much more unexpected, however, was the 48 parts per billion reading from the third well, about 1,000 feet south of Dalecarlia at Loughboro Road and MacArthur Boulevard.
Washington Post
February 18, 2006: pg. B-2

As the clock runs out on the Bush administration, officials at the Environmental Protection Agency are trying to hand industry yet another victory by refusing to set safety standards for the toxic rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate ... Based on Centers for Disease Control data, the Environmental Working Group estimated that as many as 44 million women who are pregnant, thyroid deficient or have low iodine levels are at heightened risk of exposure to the chemical.

Other CDC studies have found perchlorate in the urine of every person tested and have discovered that children between 6 and 11 had perchlorate levels 1.6 times higher than adults. These CDC reports have aroused great concern because tests show that the chemical disrupts production of thyroid hormones at these levels, and adequate thyroid hormones are crucial to normal brain development and growth in infants and children.
Perchlorate in Groundwater near Dalecarlia Reservoir

In a letter last week, the heads of EPA's Science Advisory Board and its drinking water committee urged EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to extend the public comment period on its preliminary determination to not regulate perchlorate. That decision is set to become final next month. Perchlorate, which is present in the water systems of 35 states, accumulates in the body from consuming water, milk, lettuce and other common products and has been linked in scientific studies to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and infants ... "It seemed premature to go ahead and make a decision on perchlorate when they didn't have all the science in," [Advisory Board Chairwoman Deborah] Swackhamer said ... A 2006 CDC study of 1,000 women found that one third had experienced significant changes in thyroid hormone levels at an exposure rate of 7 parts per billion.
Washington Post

November 14, 2008: pg. A-8

Oct 19, 2008

Drilling Could Dredge Chemical Weapons from Ocean Floor

The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 ton of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels. A Daily Press investigation also found: these weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the country, concealed off at least 11 states - six on the East Coast, two on the Gulf Coast, California, Hawaii and Alaska ... The Army can't say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from World War II to 1970. Army records are sketchy, missing or were destroyed.
Daily Press
Newport News, Va
October 30, 2005

Oct 1, 2008

Excavations Under South Extension Will Begin on October 20th

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been digging and investigating Pit 3, located in the 4800 block of Glenbrook Road, since Oct. 29, 2007 ... Now we are focusing our attention on an area immediately to the south of the structure, and have built an additional extension on Glenbrook Road towards Rockwood Parkway. This is an area where 19 metallic anomalies, or objects that exhibit irregular magnetic responses below the ground surface, have been identified. These items need to be investigated since they are so close to the original Pit 3 location. Work on the southern extension is expected to begin this month and take about two to four weeks to complete. USACE is very interested in the results of this dig because additional anomalies do extend further down the road."
The Corps'pondent ~ (October 2008: pg. 1)

Sep 19, 2008

Pentagon Accused of Retaliation Over Base Cleanup Requests

Congress gives the Pentagon about $30 million annually to dispense to states with contaminated military bases, to help pay the states' costs to oversee cleanup of those sites. But in 2006, the Pentagon began telling some states they would no longer receive money for various oversight activities and would lose all of the money if they took enforcement action.
Washington Post ~ (September 19, 2008: pg. A-2)

Testing gas masks at Camp AU (1918) ~ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Sep 11, 2008

Repository Records Search Like Looking for Needle in Haystack

At the Palisades Neighborhood Library, the editor searches in vain through the unlabeled drawers of the Spring Valley FUDS-cleanup public information repository for recently released Area of Interest task force [AOITF] reports. Charged with investigating 28 areas of interest within the 662-acre Spring Valley project area, the AOITF made recommendations if additional investigations were needed. In a closet-sized alcove, housed in identical white binders in no apparent order, are paper records generated over the project's 15-year history.

Aug 31, 2008

Hunt for Munitions at Pit 3 Moves onto Neighbor's Property

"Construction began on the South Extension [of the Emergency Containment Structure] and continues into September ... The South Extension’s construction is expected to take 6 weeks, and should be completed in mid September. The digging investigation inside the South Extension will be short; 1 - 2 weeks is anticipated. During this time the Shelter-in Place program will go into effect again for those residents and workers within 750 feet of the project area, Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m."
Spring Valley ~ Formerly Used Defense Site
Monthly Project Update: August 2008

Jul 17, 2008

Forum Focuses on Long-Term Health Effects of Buried Poisons

Left to right: K. Slowinski, C. Ion, B. Resnick & Camille Saum
At the third Friends of the Earth roundtable on the 15-year cleanup of World War I-era chemical weapons in northwest Washington DC, community activist Kent Slowinski reacts to a presentation by Dr. Beth Resnick summarizing the 2007 Johns Hopkins Public Health Scoping Study. As Global Green USA co-convener Cristian Ion looks on, a cameraman records the event for a forthcoming documentary entitled Bombs in Our Backyard, which exposes Spring Valley as the nation’s most affluent toxic dump.

Jul 14, 2008

Arsenic Contaminated Soil Near Hughes Hall to Be Removed

"For several years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting environmental investigations and cleanup activities on and around the AU campus. This work will continue in the coming weeks as the Army Corps undertakes arsenic-containing soil cleanup activities just north of Hughes Hall ... The digging is expected to start in late July and be completed before fall semester begins."
Jorge Abud, Assist. Vice President, Facilities
American University
July 14, 2008

Jun 19, 2008

Getting Them Out of the Neighborhood is Top Priority

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, continues its work at Pit 3 … The types of items that are being recovered are exactly the types of items the USACE has planned for, specifically, old munitions. These items could present a future risk to the community if not removed — safely recovering these items and getting them out of the neighborhood during this operation is a top priority. “The day we dig an empty hole at Pit 3 will be a good day,” said [Project Manager Dan] Noble. “We will continue digging until we reach clean soil.”
The Corps’pondent
(June 2008: pg. 3)

Jun 13, 2008

Army Cleanup Extends to AU Campus

"The work planned for around the Public Safety Building will include investigating two areas in the front of the building where buried anomalies have been identified; excavating and removing buried debris in the rear of the property; and sampling and removing contaminated soil and associated debris (if present) around the utility trench to the east of the building ... This project will continue at least to the end of this year (2008)."

The Army Corps of Engineers resumes excavations today to recover chemicals buried in the area known as Lot 18, located on the South Side of campus behind the Public Safety, Financial Aid and Hamilton buildings. Last fall the Army Corps found a glass container containing the chemical agent Lewisite. Since then, the site has been closed pending stricter security measures as the site was reclassified as a "High Probability" area where more Lewisite may be found, according to the Army Corps … The Army Corps has been working on and around AU's campus since 2001 when arsenic was discovered in the soil of the intramural field and around the Child Development Center.
Keith F Shovlin

May 29, 2008

Initial Arsenic Readings Called a "False Positive"

Officials reopened Fort Reno Park in Northwest Washington yesterday, saying recent extensive tests have found no unsafe levels of arsenic in the soil there. The 33-acre field, a popular site for sports and concerts in the Tenleytown neighborhood, was abruptly closed to the public May 14 after the U.S. Geological Survey said soil samples showed arsenic levels of as much as 1,100 parts per million -- about 25 times the limit of 43 parts per million set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But those test results turned out to be "a false positive," officials said yesterday.
Washington Post (May 29, 2000: pg. B-1)

May 15, 2008

Arsenic Levels Cause Indefinite Closure of Fort Reno Park

A 33-acre federal park in Northwest Washington was abruptly shut yesterday and will remain closed indefinitely after soil analysis found arsenic levels far above what the federal government considers safe ... Park Service spokesman Bill Line said in an interview that before agency officials were notified about the high arsenic levels, they "had no prior reason to suspect anything other than safe conditions existed in Fort Reno Park."
Washington Post
May 15, 2008:
pg. B-1
The Partners discussed the Terry Slonecker/Rich Albright aerial photograph of high arsenic readings in the District of Columbia area and an article that recently appeared in the Examiner. The year 2000 photograph came from T. Slonecker's doctoral thesis and shows the northwest District of Columbia area and Spring Valley with some red spots indicating high arsenic readings. There are spots at Fort Reno and at Friendship Park. The statement by [Richard] Albright to the Examiner a couple of weeks ago said that toxic chemicals have spread.
Spring Valley FUDS
Partnering Meeting Minutes
November 27, 2007 (pg. 18)

How-To Manual Details Chemical Weapons Cleanup

"Unexploded military ordnance and highly toxic chemical munitions, some dating back to World War I, are a worldwide concern -- especially at closed military bases that are being redeveloped for housing or civilian use. [Richard] Albright steers the reader away from many common misconceptions about weapons site remediation, and exposes the minefield of lies that are all too often used to placate the public. Albright enjoys an international reputation as an expert in weapons of mass destruction. He has testified before Congress and state governments on chemical weapons, and received the prestigious Cafritz Award in 2001 for his work in cleaning up the Spring Valley World War I military facility in Washington, DC."
Cleanup of Chemical and Explosive Munitions
by Richard Albright

May 8, 2008

More World War I Shells Recovered

Intrusive investigations in the East Extension began on April 28th. In the first week of operation the investigation team has recovered WW I-era munition items. These items have been safely handled like all previous items and removed from the property in accordance with work plan guidelines.
Spring Valley Project Update
April 2008

Apr 24, 2008

Military Never Accounted For Chemical Munitions "Mother Lode"

The greatest risk AU students currently face is the potential existence of a large burial site of unexploded World War I-era munitions in the area, Buzz Bailey, a local attorney, said during a panel discussion ... "We have found pure lewisite, pure mustard and pure arsine gas right next to AU on Glenbrook Road," said Ken Shuster of the Environmental Protection Agency. "We know that some [chemical munitions] were buried here — but the big mother load [sic] we still have not yet found" ... "Unfortunately, when the military turned these lands over, they did not clean them up," Shuster said. "They did not even investigate them to determine what contaminants may exist."
Christopher Cottrell
The Eagle ~ April 24, 2008

Apr 17, 2008

Global Green USA Hosts Spring Valley Forum

At a panel discussion sponsored by Friends of the Earth, community activist Kent Slowinski traces the recent history of attempts to locate and remove chemical weapons buried under Spring Valley ninety years ago. Legacy Project Director, Paul Walker of Global Green USA (far right), looks on as Slowinski shows where Civil War relic hunters recovered World War I munitions next to Dalecarlia Reservoir, the District's water supply.

 Partners before "Rick Woods Pit" site visit (2/26/05) ~ USACE
The tour group then walked to the area where Rick Woods entered the Dalecarlia Woods previously, near the intersection of Rockwood Parkway and Dalecarlia Parkway. Thomas Jacobus, Washington Aqueduct, met them at this location and let them on to the property. R. Woods showed the group the area that he had found Civil War memorabilia years ago and, after going up a steep incline, located the small gauge railroad bed. There was a row of rocks there for erosion control and the bed looks like a walking trail today. Major Verell stated that it is definitely there and it was R. Woods' landmark for locating the area where he found munitions previously. The group traveled up a hill, turned east and went down a hill. R. Woods said this was definitely the area where he had found munitions. He said he was walking through the woods with a metal detector, got beeps, brushed some leaves away and started moving the dirt with a knife to locate the rounds. R. Woods reported that he began stacking the rounds against a tree and made 6-7 trips to his car, carrying 6-7 rounds on each trip.

Apr 14, 2008

Digging for Real Answers

"If there was ever a moment that we felt the university was hiding something, it's now. Whether administrators are filtering or burying information out of concern for bad press or heightened hysteria, the university's silence on the munitions dig is reprehensible at best. It seems that every new report about chemicals or components reveals a new weapons site that's geographically closer to the residence halls, the Child Development Center and other heavily populated campus areas."
Staff Editorial
The Eagle
April 14, 2008

Apr 10, 2008

Containment Structure Extended

The Corps lengthened the ECS [Emergency Containment Structure] by approximately 17 feet to the east toward American Uniiversity to further investigate the area, also known as "Pit 3," for remnants of World War I-era munitions or laboratory gear ... Work at Pit 3 will restart April 28.
Christopher Cottrell
The Eagle ~ April 9, 2008

Apr 4, 2008

Army Releases Video of Pit 3 Dig

Right here we have where we were in 2002 - 2003. This is ... the bottom of where we reached in Pit 3 — where we removed the hundreds of munitions items from the other side of the property.”
Carrie Johnston
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Mar 20, 2008

Hopkins Proposes Tracking Program

Members of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board received a proposal last week from the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health that provides additional details about its plans for a follow-up health study ... The study's specific goals include continued communication with Spring Valley residents about the health hazards discussed in the original Johns Hopkins scoping study -- including cancers, neurological and blood disorders and skin conditions -- and developing mechanisms for ongoing monitoring of the effects of chemical weapons exposure.
Christopher Cottrell
The Eagle ~ March 19, 2008

Mar 19, 2008

April Vote Set on Health Study

A Spring Valley health study proposed by Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh is not getting the kind of resounding support some expected as a matter of course in a neighborhood used as a World War I chemical munitions dump. Beset by ambivalence and outright opposition to the $750,000 budget request, the citizen-comprised Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board last week scheduled a vote in April on whether to take a position on the need for such a study, which would be conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The Northwest Current (March 19, 2008: pg. 1)

Feb 29, 2008

Weapon Stockpile Still Missing

"Almost 800 barrels of soil have been sampled and removed. We did not find what we anticipated: stacked rounds of a couple hundred buried munitions like those recovered in 2002 from the section of Pit 3 on the adjacent property ..."
Spring Valley Project Update
(February 2008)

Feb 14, 2008

Numerous "Anomalies" Detected

Ed Hughes, program manager of the Army Corps' Baltimore district, said his team received an indication from geophysical and chemical testing that it needed to extend its search further alongside the road, as well as in the direction of campus. Hughes said geophysical testing, which includes combing the premises with a metal detector, revealed numerous other "anomalies" within the university-owned property that had yet to be unearthed and examined. This led the Corps to believe they have a lot of work ahead of them, he said.
Christopher Cottrell
The Eagle ~ February 14, 2008

Jan 23, 2008

Digging Resumes at Munitions Pit 3

After the MARB results determined that the munition of concern is an explosively configured 75 mm chemical projectile with an arsine fill, the Corps submitted a Chemical Safety Submission amendment to the Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board. The Board approved the amendment on January 18. The amendment requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to place an air filtration unit on the Interim Holding Facility ...
USACE News Release
Spring Valley FUDS
January 3, 2008

Interim Holding Facility (IHF)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is storing World War I chemical weapons excavated from the nearby Spring Valley community inside this tent-like structure with the long air filtration unit. Contaminated soil is stored inside the blue barrels. This land is just north of Sibley Hospital and on the east side of Dalecarlia Reservoir. Dalecarlia Parkway is visible 310 feet away through the trees in back.

Aerial View of Property Around Interim Holding Facility

U.S. government property surrounding Dalecarlia Reservoir where the Army Corps of Engineers is keeping chemical weapons that are unearthed from munitions "Pit 3" in the Spring Valley neighborhood one mile east of the four-lane parkway.
Google Maps

Jan 14, 2008

Kojo Nnamdi Show ~ WAMU 88.5 FM

"One of the challenges certainly is that we don't know all the areas where munitions were buried. We've done extensive searching into the records, but it was kind of 'out of sight, out of mind' back then [in 1918] ..."
Ed Hughes, Program Manager
Army Corps of Engineers
Spring Valley FUDS Cleanup

Jan 8, 2008

Melanie Alnwick Reports ~ FOX 5

"Three weeks into the dig, ordnance experts found a unique shell that wasn't planned for and stopped all work ..."
Melanie Alnwick

Fox 5 News
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