Aug 26, 2009

Digging Suspended after Surprise Mustard Discovery at Burial Pit 3

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District has temporarily suspended its investigation of Pit 3, located at 4825 Glenbrook Road at the Spring Valley Formerly Used Defense Site in northwest Washington, D.C., as a result of the discovery of an intact, open flask ... Following established procedures, workers secured the flask and took it to the federal property adjacent to the Washington Aqueduct. The Army’s Technical Escort Unit (TEU) took the flask to Edgewood Arsenal, in Maryland, for analysis on Aug. 5. On Aug.10, the Corps received confirmation that the material in the flask tested positive for the chemical agent mustard.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
August 12, 2009

"Mustard gas in open containers is just as toxic now as it was 90 years ago," says Kent Slowinski, a Spring Valley resident, activist and thorn in the Army's side. "How can the corps say there's no risk?" That's the question D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton posed to corps project manager Daniel Noble on Thursday afternoon. When she heard about the mustard gas, she hauled Noble into her office. Norton has been relentless in keeping the corps on the case and prying information from the Army. "We want them to keep digging," she told me after the meeting. "They are not leaving until we say so."
Harry Jaffe
Washington Examiner

August 14,2009

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is right to note that the Corps twice before has declared the cleanup complete, only to resume work after the discovery of more buried weapons. Officials must do everything they can to make sure this does not happen yet again, and it is essential that they fully investigate the cause of extensive groundwater contamination in the area ... Since munitions were first uncovered in 1993 by unsuspecting construction workers in Spring Valley West, the Army has spent $173 million on cleanup efforts. We're glad Del. Norton is working to ensure that this enormous project is done right
Davis Kennedy
Northwest Current

August 26, 2009

1 comment:

Allen Hengst said...

August 30, 2009 (pg. 1):

David Taylor, chief of staff to President Neil Kerwin, said the flask posed no threat to the surrounding area, and the chemical did not seem to have leaked into the surrounding soil. “It is my understanding that there was no presence of this agent in the soil around where this flask was found,” he said. Clem Gaines, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore, said the finding poses no threat to students’ safety, but the digging is temporarily halted. “When we found [the flask] and made the identification, the pit was closed and the work stopped,” Gaines said. It is unclear when the work will continue, he said. “We’re not making any estimate on when we’ll be working again,” Gaines said. For now, he advises staff and students to avoid the site of the findings ...

Mustard gas, the agent found in the buried glassware, causes blisters, temporary blindness, breathing problems and death, according to a USA Today article ... In the past, the Army Corps worked under a metal kit containment structure. This level of protection included an air filtration system, had the workers wear hazmat suits and had alarm systems that would go off should there be a spill or gaseous hazard, according to Taylor. This containment structure has not been used in recent years, but Taylor believes the mustard gas find will lead to its reconstruction.

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