Apr 25, 2010

Student Holds Forum on Toxins Buried Under American University

Michael Ginsberg, Kent Slowinski, Nan Wells, William Hirzy, Beth Resnick & Steven Hirsh

The discussion, titled The Toxins beneath American University aimed to inform the AU community and Spring Valley residents about the future of remediation efforts and potential health issues, according to Michael Ginsberg, a senior in the School of International Service ... "I held this panel at Wesley Seminary, not American University, because the administration would not permit it to take place on campus," [Ginsberg said] ... "AU is not truly interested in open dialogue on the issues at hand, but in preserving and maintaining its sanitized presentation of the facts."

"According to a 1921 article in The Courier, American University's trustees gave permission to the Army to bury $800,000 of chemical warfare agents, munitions and explosives on campus and released the federal government of all liability in exchange for 8 buildings that the Army built," [Kent Slowinski observed]. "This is one of the worst cases of environmental contamination in the District of Columbia. The responsible thing to do, according to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, is to set up a disease registry for AU students, faculty and staff, as well as Spring Valley residents, workers and tenants."
Christopher Cottrell
The Eagle
April 25, 2010

Ginsburg invited 28 potential speakers, including representatives of the university and the Army Corps of Engineers, but only five attended, none of them representing the Army or the school's administration ... As for the university, spokesperson Camille Lepre said the school administration did not jointly decide against participating. Rather, she said Ginsberg asked a number of university officials to attend and "each person made their own decision based on their own schedules."
Ian Thomas
Northwest Current
May 12, 2010 (pg. 3)

3 comments:

D. P. Dupin said...

Would love to know what they found when excavating the site for the new School of International Service - that site seemed to be adjacent to the old chemical labs. Did they find anything?? or did they even try to find anything??

Allen Hengst said...

Since constructing Bender Arena in 1986, AU's practice has been to check the historical photo analysis before they dig and there was nothing buried at the new SIS site. For more information on the analysis of Spring Valley aerial photography and search of archival records conducted by the United States and American University in 1986, please see ...

http://wmdindc.blogspot.com/2007/10/seventy-year-coverup-blown-on-jan-5.html

Allen Hengst said...

"Zach" asked me to post the following response on his behalf:

In 2001, I organized a research team visit to the College Park National Archives. We found several maps, one of which the Army Corps either said they had never seen before or had lent to someone who lost it. The map was dated August 1918 (three months before the Armistice) and showed more than 20 structures that Army historians weren’t aware of. One of the structures was the “Liven Gun Pit – Stokes Mortar Battery,” where they fired chemical munitions toward an impact area east of the reservoir next to Dalecarlia Parkway. Most of the chemical labs were near where Watkins, Kreeger, the Child Development Center, the Intramural Field and 4835/4825 Glenbrook Road (Pit 3) are now located. The Physiological Lab and several Toxic Storage Sheds were where the dormitories now are.

As far as I can tell, the Officers Mess, Infirmary, Restaurant and Company Mess were located near the present SIS site. I'd be glad to show you the map. It's unlikely that there was any chemical testing near AU's new SIS, but that's what the Corps said about the area north of Mass Avenue and several of those properties had arsenic levels so high, they had to be cleaned up as Time Critical Removal Actions (within 6 months). Some people at AU, who were involved in the design of the SIS building, raised the issue of contamination during the planning stages. Prof. Paul Wapner, who headed up the design committee, raised the issue of contamination. The architect, Bill MacDonald, former Dean of the School of Architecture, can tell you more, as can Dr. Paul Chrostowski (AU's public health consultant). They did run into bedrock while excavating for the underground parking garage. Some of the granite will be incorporated into a fountain in the building's atrium.

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