Dec 7, 2014

Decades-Long Search for CWM Resumes at 4825 Glenbrook Road

For more than 20 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting clean-up operations to remove World War I materiel discovered at various locations on or near the American University main campus and throughout the Spring Valley neighborhood.  The presence of these materials dates back to 1917–18, when parts of the AU campus and the surrounding area were used by the U.S. government and the U.S. Army to support the war effort as a site to develop and test chemical weapons.  
On December 1, 2014, the Army Corps is scheduled to resume excavation activities along Glenbrook Road, which parallels the southern border of AU’s campus ... This new phase of the project entails the exploration of an area where World War I era munitions were previously discovered; tests conducted on munitions removed from this site indicate the possible presence of chemical agents ... 

Given the nature of these materials, the Army Corps has implemented extensive safety precautions including a containment structure and filtration units around the excavation area to prevent the release of harmful chemicals into the environment in unlikely case of an accident, and monitors to detect any unusual airborne agent.  The university wants to ensure that everyone knows the excavation is taking place and is prepared to take appropriate actions if necessary.
David Taylor
American University
December 1, 2014

Nov 20, 2014

Perchlorate Plumes at AU & Sibley Still Exceed Federal Advisory Level

The quarterly sampling of the wells in front of Kreeger Hall on American University and the Sibley Hospital sump was concluded in September.  The September quarterly sampling detected perchlorate concentrations above 15 parts per billion (ppb) at MW-44 and PZ-4D on AU’s campus ... The wells PZ-4S&D (sampled since 2006), MW-44, and MW-45S&D in front of Kreeger Hall at AU all represent different depths to get vertical delineation of the areas’ groundwater ... 
MW-44 was installed in March 2012.  Its results consistently range from 33 to 50 ppb.  MW-44 is a deeper well.  The groundwater flow at this depth is an order of magnitude less than PZ-4S, which means that the groundwater flow at PZ-4S may be around a foot a day, compared to an inch a day at MW-44.  This means that the contamination seen at MW-44 may take longer to flush out over time ... 
MW-21 and MW-22 are shallow wells along MacArthur Boulevard, and the Sibley sump is in the bottom of the elevator shaft at Sibley Hospital ... When MW-22 was first sampled, the perchlorate concentrations were around 5-10 ppb.  The most recent sampling results in December 2013 and June 2014 detected perchlorate concentrations at 17 and 25 ppb.
Todd Beckwith, USACE
RAB Meeting
November 18, 2014

 
The other new well was placed in the road on Rockwood Parkway, near the tip of the Rockwood Parkway "island."  This multi-port well will further evaluate if there is any connection between the American University perchlorate plume and the plume detected in the vicinity of Sibley Hospital ... The Groundwater RI [Remedial Investigation] report will provide a summary of the groundwater investigation to include ... the nature and extent of contamination ... If the HHRA [Human Health Risk Assessment] does determine that any of the COPCs [Chemicals of Potential Concern] pose an unacceptable risk, a Feasibility Study will be performed to evaluate alternatives to address the unacceptable risk and identify Remedial Action objectives.

Oct 19, 2014

Army Backs Away from Key Details of Year-Old Trespass Allegation

HENGST: Thank you, especially, for sharing those photographs of where the Army is now alleging the unlawful entry occurred on September 24, 2013.  As you're well aware, that's not the area described by Officer McElwee at the RAB meeting of November 2013 (see pg. 3), nor is it the area referenced by RAB member Lee Monsein at this year's July RAB meeting (hear audio recording at 7 min. 35 sec.).  At a minimum, I expect USACE to correct the erroneous 11/12/13 minutes and amend or retract the inaccurate 9/25/13 police report (see "Narrative," Part V).  Even if the event took place in the area you now claim it did, that is not the property being intrusively investigated at 4825 Glenbrook Road, but is instead American University's so-called South Campus. 
      
Question from George Vassiliou, RAB Member:  Someone recently mentioned that you would share information with the RAB regarding the outcome of a trespassing incident at 4825 Glenbrook Road.   
             
Officer McElwee explained that this incident occurred several months ago and was defined as a trespassing incident without any threat to the site itself.  A gentleman walked onto the site, past the gate area, into the backyard behind the house.  The guard stationed on site immediately contacted MPDC. Officer McElwee responded to the call and took an official report.  Officer McElwee added that members of the public are entitled to a copy of the report, free of charge.  It can be obtained in person at the MPDC 2nd District’s station on Idaho Avenue. [Office McElwee provided the report number (13137401) for ease of requesting a copy.]  Officer McElwee emphasized that no threat was associated with this incident.
 

Sep 11, 2014

Very Large Crane Moves ECS to Rear of 4825 Glenbrook Road

This weekend a very large crane will arrive in the project area's parking lot at American University, near Watkins Hall.  The crane will be used to move the Engineering Control Structure.  The crane will need to be built once it arrives on site.  This means there will be about 15-20 trucks coming in this weekend to support the crane construction.  We anticipate these trucks will be in the vicinity of Nebraska Ave. and Massachusetts Ave. starting at 7 a.m. Sept. 20.  We have a plan in place to minimize local traffic impacts during the arrival of the crane.  If the crane assembly is not complete on Sept. 20, we will work on Sept. 21 to finish the assembly.
4825 Glenbrook Road
Weekly Update
September 19, 2014
       
This month crews continued preparing the site for the Engineering Control Structure (ECS) move, including unlacing the ECS tent’s "skin," and building a dirt ramp to access the low probability work area behind the back retaining wall ... The crane is being used to move heavy equipment into place, especially the large ECS tent frame, in preparation for Phase 2 of the high probability excavation effort.  On September 22, the crane passed the load test, demonstrating it will be able to move the large ECS tent frame from the front of the property towards the back, starting on October 3rd.
Spring Valley FUDS
Project Summary
September 2014 

Aug 27, 2014

East Campus Construction Starts Despite Concern over Chemicals

Over the past few months, crews have been preparing the Nebraska Avenue parking lot for construction activities that will commence this week as part of AU’s East Campus development at New Mexico and Nebraska Avenues ... A field office has been built for the on-site project team, erosion control measures have been installed to mitigate the impact of storm water runoff outside the perimeter of the site, and the necessary permits have been acquired to begin construction.  With this enabling work completed, construction is now under way.
AU in the Neighborhood

September 2014

Excavation and building permits for the East Campus project at the site of the school’s Nebraska Avenue parking lot are on hold pending sign-off from the D.C. Department of the Environment ...  Some neighbors and community leaders are pushing for more intensive review of possible contamination at the site due to the university’s World War I history, which has cost some $250 million in cleanup over the last two decades.  The parking lot site was never used for the same Army chemical munitions testing ...  but advisory neighborhood commissioner Kent Slowinski worries that soil could have been taken there from toxic areas.  
 
“If they moved contaminated soil to the site from another property, you could expect to find the same chemicals,” Slowinski said ... A former owner of the parking lot site had leased other land to the Army, Slowinski said, making it possible that dirt could have been moved around.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said that mercury has not been a widespread contaminant associated with the American University Experiment Station ...  Slowinski, meanwhile, points to a 1922 aerial photo showing ground scars on the property that he says point to disturbances, and neighbors note that mercury has been found in soil (though not groundwater) on the university campus.
2009 trenching over 1922 ground scars

The Area of Interest (AOI) 20 report is based on a 1922 aerial photograph that shows a series of linear ground scars.  AOI 20 is located outside the Formerly Used Defense Site boundary ... There is no historical evidence this parcel of land was ever used by AUES or Camp Leach.  Three trenches (each approximately 50 feet long) were dug through six of the land scars.  No AUES material was observed and no soil staining ... All soil appeared to be native undisturbed soil.
Dan Noble, Project Manager
Spring Valley FUDS
June 5, 2014

Jul 23, 2014

Glenbrook Neighbors Incensed by Latest Cleanup Schedule Delay

The Army Corps of Engineers could take until the spring of 2017 to finish cleaning up 4825 Glenbrook Road, followed by several more months of full restoration, officials said last week.  The Spring Valley property has extensive contamination of World War I-era munitions from the adjacent American University Experiment Station.  The total cost of cleaning up the property is estimated at over $56 million .... The Army originally intended to clean the property down to bedrock, but workers are now finding contamination two feet into the bedrock itself. As a result, two more feet of weathered rock will be dug up and tested.
Glenbrook Road neighbor Jill Stern criticized the decision to prolong the work at 4825, saying the project has been a serious inconvenience and is making her home impossible to sell .... The Army tore down the house at 4825 Glenbrook in fall 2012 to remove the contaminated soil from the property.  Working under the protective tent, the Army excavates a defined area before relocating the tent to another part of the property.
Northwest Current
Jill Stern:  [37:54] I've really lost confidence that you have control of the schedule here.  It's been extended so many times.  Three years from now, you're going to come back and say you need another three years.  I've just never seen such a lack of accountability ... They should be pushed to explore some other alternatives, rather than just say it's going to be another three years ... I just don't understand why this Board is not pushing back at all ... [54:48] The reason I thought it was better to talk about this at the RAB was because it was an open forum and I thought this Board was actually being more questioning than it appears to be.

Jun 18, 2014

AU Won't Attend Public Meetings with Banned Elected Official

Andrew Huff, a community relations official with [American University], told D.C. police that Kent Slowinski, an elected member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D, punched him in the shoulder with a closed fist, hard enough for him to stumble.  Though Slowinski's name is not on the public portion of the police report, he freely admitted in an interview to throwing at least one hard punch - but, he said, only after Huff rudely interrupted him as he chatted with a constituent.  Slowinski said Huff stuck his hand out, hoping for a handshake; the commissioner said he tried to walk way, and then Huff pushed him.  

"He filed a police report, really?"  Slowinski said.  "I felt threatened.  I wasn't going to shake his hand.  I was walking away and he pushed me.  I said, 'That's assault,' and so I punched him in the arm."
  

... Slowinski said Huff has a habit of "rolling his eyes" during meetings and cutting him and others off when they challenge campus dogma ... Slowinski said he wanted to discuss other, more unusual community concerns: buried chemical weapons from World War I and whether any might be leaking into a parking lot along a residential street.  Land in the Spring Valley neighborhood that is now part of the university was an old U.S. Army munitions testing site and dumping ground.
Peter Hermann
Washington Post
June 12, 2014

In response to the incident, the university banned Slowinski from its campus and property. Furthermore, the university’s Linda Argo wrote in a letter to the  neighborhood commission: “American University will not participate in any ANC meeting until adequate assurance is provided that Mr. Slowinski will not be present.” ... Commissioner Tom Smith, an outspoken critic of many of the university's development plans, said in an email that he has found Huff to be sometimes rude and threatening at past community meetings and personally refuses to attend meetings in which Huff is the only university representative present ... Last week's incident is Slowinski's second police matter in recent months regarding the munitions issue.  According to a Metropolitan Police Department report, an officer stopped him in September 2013 for trespassing while taking pictures. 

May 21, 2014

3 Spring Valley Areas Will Undergo New Health Risk Assessment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to find numerous potentially harmful chemicals in the soil of American University’s campus near Kreeger and Watkins halls, officials reported last week.  Speaking at the May 13 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, Army officials identified the chemicals as antimony, cobalt and a group of three polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  The contamination on the campus and in nearby Spring Valley homes stems from the Army’s chemical munitions testing carried out at American during World War I.  The Army Corps has spent $240 million cleaning up the area over the last 21 years ... In the residential areas of Spring Valley, the level of cobalt in the soil around the corner of Tilden Street and Fordham Road is high enough to raise concern.  Until recently the cobalt readings would not have been an issue, but the Environmental Protection Agency has lowered the toxicity threshold for the chemical based on recent research ...
The Army has also been continuing to test the groundwater in Spring Valley and on the American University campus ... [Project Manager] Dan Noble told board members that eventually the Army would probably try to clean up any dangerous groundwater ... Added Steve Hirsh of the EPA: “If you were drinking it, it would have to be fixed right away, but you’re not” ...  Hirsh said the Army has tried unsuccessfully over the years to find a heavy concentration of perchlorate that could be affecting the groundwater.
Northwest Current
  

Apr 12, 2014

Army Reevaluates Its Refusal to Relocate Glenbrook Road Family

Following a question from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, highlighting that more hazardous materials have been found at [4825 Glenbrook Road] a particularly contaminated property where the Army Corps has demolished a home and is excavating, the Army Corps agreed to reevaluate their prior refusal to cover the cost of relocating a family in Spring Valley who lives directly across the street from the property, has small children and rented an apartment on top of their mortgage in order to avoid the contamination ...
    
Last year, Norton wrote a letter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, urging him to temporarily relocate the family in Spring Valley because they have very young children, ages 2 and 6, living directly across the street from property where the Army Corps has demolished a home and is excavating ... Now, because of the amount of additional hazardous material found, the project’s projected completion date has been pushed back six months, from December 2014 to June 2015.  Meanwhile, no action has been taken by the Army Corps to relocate the family.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
DC Congresswoman
April 2, 2014

Mar 26, 2014

Residents Try to Spare Pocket Park from Groundwater Well Drilling

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investigates possible chemical contamination in Spring Valley’s groundwater, some residents are concerned about damage to a tiny park in the median of Rockwood Parkway ...  the Army has been trying to track the underground spread of the chemical perchlorate.  The Army has identified the park as the best location for a new groundwater monitoring well — joining 53 already installed in the area — which will identify whether contamination has spread into this section of the neighborhood ... 

[Spring Valley advisory neighborhood commissioner] Nan Wells said at the neighborhood commission’s March 5 meeting: “I think the Army needs to take another look at this and work with us, and preserve this beautiful park” ...  The neighborhood commission voted unanimously to ask the Army to find another site ... In an interview this week, Wells said some neighbors may organize a protest at the park if well-drilling does commence there.  In response to a neighborhood rumor that the Army was threatening to arrest demonstrators, [army spokesperson Andrea] Takash said, “No, no, that’s free speech.”
Brady Holt
Northwest Current
March 26, 2014

As part of the ongoing groundwater investigation ... USACE met with residents, ANC commissioners, RAB members and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on April 29 to discuss locations for the proposed well in the vicinity of Rockwood Parkway.  Based on this meeting, USACE is looking for another area in public space on Rockwood Parkway or Indian Lane, other than the Rockwood Parkway Island.
Spring Valley FUDS
Project Update
April 2014

Feb 28, 2014

Completion of Glenbrook Road Project Slips to Summer 2015


This month the crews continued hand excavating the area under the former front porch of the home [at 4825 Glenbrook Road] down to saprolite.  They continued to recover American University Experiment Station (AUES)-related debris. Additionally, they demolished about a 10-foot section of the porch footer wall.  Due to the debris we have encountered under the former front porch (hand excavation is a slow process) and days lost due to the recent winter weather, we have had to revise our schedule for Glenbrook Road.  
     4825 Glenbrook Road (2/13/14)
We now expect to finish excavation work in spring of 2015 and restore the site to residential standards before returning the property back to American University in summer 2015.  This schedule could change, either direction, depending on what we encounter during the continued excavation work.  At the March 11 RAB meeting we will provide more details and video footage of the current work.
Spring Valley FUDS
Project Update
February 2014

Feb 12, 2014

Precise Source of Lewisite in Soil Under Front Porch is Unknown

The analytical results for the liquid in the intact container discovered on Jan. 17 tested positive for lewisite.  The bottom layer of liquid in the bottle contained a small amount of lewisite ... There was no release of lewisite during the discovery or removal of the item.  With the results of the testing complete, the container will be properly disposed of by the Edgewood Chemical Transfer Facility.
Spring Valley FUDS
4825 Glenbrook Road Update
January 31, 2014 

 AUES bottle containing Lewisite
Until recently, the soil samples have been non-detect for chemical agents or industrial compounds.  A report received Jan. 31 showed that recently excavated soil tested positive for lewisite.  This soil came from the area around the location where we discovered the Jan. 17 intact glass bottle that also contained lewisite.  The soils currently being excavated are 6-8 feet below ground surface.
Spring Valley FUDS

4825 Glenbrook Road Update
February 7, 2014
  
Army spokesperson Andrea Takash said the container found was not leaking and that she could not speculate on the source of the lewisite found in the soil.  Workers have removed countless pieces of glassware from the site.  The burial pit is believed to have been disturbed when the home at 4825 Glenbrook was constructed in the early 1990s, and construction workers building the house reportedly suffered injuries consistent with chemical weapons exposure.  Residents of the house also reported illnesses before moving out in 2001; the home was subsequently left vacant before it was demolished. 
     
At their meeting last Wednesday, several members of the Palisades/Spring Valley advisory neighborhood commission expressed concerns about the Army’s findings.  “Lewisite is nothing to fool around with.  It’s a very serious thing,” said commissioner Tom Smith, whose single-member district includes 4825 Glenbrook.  Smith said he was also worried that lewisite may have also contaminated neighboring properties — the American University president’s house and the South Korean ambassador’s residence.
Brady Holt

Jan 29, 2014

Longtime Resident Geza Teleki was Fierce Critic of Corps' Cleanup

We write to honor the life of Geza Teleki.  After a long battle with many health issues, Geza passed away on January 7, 2014, in his home on Szentendre Island, Hungary.  He lived in Spring Valley from 1984 to 2003 at 3819 48th Street.  We remember Geza for his deep concern over the cleanup and wellbeing of Spring Valley.  He fought for a more thorough and transparent investigation into the buried munitions and chemical remains resulting from the World War I chemical weapons development and testing at the American University Experimental Station and neighboring properties.  Geza eloquently spoke of these concerns while serving on the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board from its inception until he resigned in 2002.  
Ginny Durrin & Ken Shuster
Northwest Current
January 29, 2014 (pg. 11)

Dr. Virginia Marie Weaver, an occupational health specialist at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, reported in a five-page clinic note last January that her patient,  Geza Teleki, represented a puzzle for any health professional.  Teleki, who in 2003 moved to Maryland after living in his family home on the 3800 block of 48th Street in Spring Valley for more than 30 years, suffers from diabetes, hypothyroidism, advancing kidney disease, colon disease and a heart ailment that may require surgery.  This multi-organ breakdown occurred in a two-year period after more than a decade of robust good health ... 
  Geza P. Teleki testifies at DC City Council hearing
 Weaver wrote that her patient "could have had exposure to volatile chemicals from soil evaporation or water leaking into his basement.  He could have had exposure to particulates and metals through gardening.  The extent of the exposure remains unknown due to the absence of extensive sampling during the time he was in the home."  She further wrote that the nature of the chemicals still in the ground "is unclear since they were experimental -- and the byproducts that could have formed over the 80 years are even more unclear." 
Charles Bermpohl
Northwest Current
November 10, 2004 (pg. B-3)

Nevermore, I realized as I hastened homeward to my own bed ... would I regard chimpanzees as "mere animals."  On that singular eve, which also marked the twilight of my youth, I had seen my species inside the skin of another ... Having spent some years in the company of chimpanzees, both free and confined individuals, I find myself no longer able to cleave to the majority human view of chimpanzees as inferior beings.  
Geza P. Teleki
They Are Us (1993) 

Jan 17, 2014

Live 75mm Shell Shuts Down Glenbrook Road Dig for Two Days

On Monday workmen unearthed another crusty munition from its current excavation of the toxic-waste site on Glenbrook Road, a stone's throw from the American University campus.  The fourth such find pulled from the ground in tony Spring Valley since September, the artifact turned out to be a 75-millimeter shrapnel round buried when the Army abandoned a experimental warfare station after World War I.  The Army Corps of Engineers immediately shut down the Glenbrook Road operation, transported the bomb to a secure site behind Sibley Memorial Hospital, and checked it for explosives.
The fill was determined to be a riot-control agent that was used during World War I," the Corps announced Wednesday, saying that it "poses no danger to the workers or community."  Christine Dietrich, who lives across the street from the dig with her husband and two young children, is not reassured.  "It's absolutely unacceptable," she told Washingtonian.  "I cannot have my children playing in the front yard when they are digging up one bomb after another across the street." 

MK IV adapter/booster
On Jan. 13, crews safely removed two items.  The first item was encountered during the morning effort and was determined to be a Mk IV adapter/booster.  In the World War I era, an adapter and booster casing was designed to convert a 75mm conventional munition into a chemical munition.  The team concluded that the item is MPPEH (material potentially presenting an explosive hazard).  The item will not detonate without a fuze.  It was packaged and transported to the Federal Property.  The project team assessed this finding and based on experience and prior efforts determined that high probability excavations could resume using our existing multiple layers of engineering controls ...

The second item, encountered in the afternoon of Jan. 13, was determined to be a 75mm shrapnel round, unfuzed and unfired. The initial assessment indicates the item has an unknown solid fill. The item was packaged and transported to Federal Property, where it is waiting an additional assessment. Until the second assessment is complete, the site is shutdown.
Spring Valley FUDS

75mm shrapnel round
The Munitions Advisory Review Board reviewed the assessments of the 75mm shrapnel round that was encountered at the Glenbrook Road project Jan. 13.  After looking at X-rays and a chemical analysis, the team determined the item does not contain energetics.  The fill was determined to be a riot control agent that was used during World War I.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reviewed these results and determined that our existing engineering controls are adequate and no modifications to our procedures are needed at this time.  Based on this determination, we plan to resume high probability operations on Thursday, Jan. 16. 
 
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