Mar 28, 2013

EPA Admits It Cannot Enforce Provisions of Executive Order

EPA recognizes the entirely understandable concern that your clients and their parents have regarding USACE's cleanup work so close to their home.  However, for reasons detailed below, EPA does not believe that the actions you have requested are appropriate or necessary at this time ... EPA's CERCLA guidance for assessing risks and conducting cleanups, which governs USACE's work at the Spring Valley site, recognizes that children (as well as health-compromised adults) may be more sensitive to environmental exposures than the general public.  However, while Executive Order 13045 imposes certain obligations upon federal agencies, including EPA and USACE, it does not confer an authority on EPA to enforce its provisions against other federal agencies.

... The USACE has also instituted an additional layer of protection for nearby residents which assumes the extremely unlikely event that a MCE [maximum credible event] has occurred and that the containment system has catastrophically failed such that the air blowers are unable to capture the contamination, resulting in the release of chemical to air outside the structure.  Based on this hypothetical scenario, the USACE calculated a perimeter within which a voluntary shelter-in-place program would be established ... In this unlikely event, the community members with the potentially affected area would be notified through pre-arranged methods and instructed to shelter in place.
Kathyrn A. Hodgkiss
March 28, 2013

Mar 16, 2013

Congresswoman Norton Says Corps May Be Violating Executive Order

The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released Norton’s letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin in support of a petition urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily relocate a family in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest D.C. because they have young children, ages one and five, living directly across the street from a property where the Army Corps has demolished a home and is beginning to excavate for potentially hazardous substances.  Excavation is necessary because of a 2011 Army Corps remediation investigation report that indicated that chemical weapons-related debris are likely buried under the house at 4825 Glenbrook Road. 

In her letter, Norton expressed her disappointment in the Army Corps’ rejection of the family’s request, and subsequent appeal, for relocation during the excavation, and in the Army Corps’ explanation that it could not differentiate between very young children and adults living in the affected area.  “For the reasons stated in the petition, I found this conclusion to be uninformed and inconsistent with widely available scientific data,” wrote Norton ... Norton also wrote that the Army Corps may be in violation of an executive order that requires all federal agencies to “make it a high priority to identify and assess environmental health risks and safety risks that may disproportionately affect children.”

Mar 6, 2013

University Waiting to Tell Campus About Shelter-In-Place Protocols

While the Army Corps of Engineers has already informed residents on Glenbrook Road of emergency shelter procedures, AU will not brief the community on an emergency plan until April, according to Assistant Vice President for Communication and Media Camille Lepre.  Starting in May, the Corps expects to find more debris from the former WWI-era munitions site at 4825 Glenbrook Road.  The Corps will enclose the area and use an air monitoring system ... Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Andrea Takash said the Corps has briefed AU’s administration on the public protection plan, but when to communicate the plan to the AU community is the University’s decision ...

Public address speakers and strobe lights will be used to alert the community in the event of an emergency during high-probability work, according to the Corps.  Sirens and speaker systems will also be placed at the Watkins and Kreeger buildings, Takash said.  A map indicating the residences within the “shelter-in-place” zone during “high-probability” work includes Watkins and AU President Neil Kerwin’s home.  Shelter-in-place procedures instruct residents to take cover wherever they are in the case of an emergency at the site ... The Army Corps has conducted other “low-probability” investigations in recent years at the AU Experiment Station (AUES) site that have revealed debris and munitions.  During an operation next to the Public Safety building in 2010, Army Corps workers unearthed a 75 mm artillery piece buried under the building’s lower entrance
Leigh Giangreco
March 6, 2013 (pg. 6)

Mar 1, 2013

Pentagon Worried about Setting Precedent if It Okays Relocation

Christine Dieterich said she contacted the Corps, and was assured that soil testing on her property had come back negative, that the cleanup was slowly coming to an end, and that there was no risk to her family.  "Famous last words," she said, in a phone interview last week ... "They reassessed," she said, "and eventually determined to demolish the house.  We told the Corps, 'Fine, clean up the property, we would like to relocate,'" she continued.  That was in early 2012, and she said the initial response was "quite positive," with Corps aides looking at houses for the family.  "Then hardliners at the Corps took over," she said, and after three rounds of appeals, the relocation request was rejected last week.  "These people take forever for everything, and they never admit a mistake." 
The family is not banking on a positive response from the Environmental Protection Agency.  "We're now considering legal options," [Dieterich said] ... "If they do something for Christine's kids, it's a slippery slope for them," [Attorney Buzz] Bailey said.  "The Pentagon won't do the right thing because they're concerned about precedent."
Elizabeth Wiener

February 27, 2013 (pg. 1)

The best attempt at providing answers came from a 2004 survey of a 345-house epicenter of Spring Valley by Charles Bermpohl, a staff writer for the Northwest Current, a weekly paper that covers Spring Valley.  Bermpohl found 160 cases of chronic, often life-threatening and rare diseases.  Bermpohl's research found an alarming number of diseases, but experts have criticized the findings as anecdotal and unscientific ... Camille Saum had grown up on Sedgwick Street and lived there from 1947 to 1964 ... "Three-quarters of the homes in our part of the neighborhood had serious illnesses," says Beth Junium, Saum's sister ... Junium counts the houses with cancer -- "bad cancers, they all died" -- and stops at seven.  "I had an enormous growth on my thyroid," she says. 
... Camille Saum was eventually diagnosed with lupus and renal stenosis, a rare kidney disease that constricts the blood vessels.  "I was examined by a doctor for NIH who told me my conditions could have been caused by arsenic poisoning," she said.
Hit CountersFree Hit Counter