May 20, 2015

Army Briefs Residents on Draft 5-Year Site-Wide Cleanup Plan

Spring Valley residents expressed concerns about the proposed five-year timeline for removing any remaining hazardous remains left from World War I-era chemical weapons testing in the area at a community meeting last week ... The U.S. Army has been working to clean up Spring Valley for more than two decades, addressing materials that its former munitions testing facility on the American University campus left behind nearly a century ago.
Dan Noble, the Spring Valley cleanup project manager from the Army Corps, said a comment period on a recently released Remedial Investigation Report will end on May 26 ...  The risk factors in Spring Valley fall into two categories: chemical concerns in the soil and risks associated with munitions and explosives.   The areas affected include the southern portion of American University’s campus and the surrounding residential neighborhood ...  
Dan Noble
One resident, Mara Miller, urged the Army to take more decisive action to clean up the neighborhood.  Through occasional tears, Miller said she suffers from a rare immunodeficiency disease that she believes she contracted as a result of her family living in Spring Valley for more than 50 years. “I think the most important part is we find the chemicals and get rid of them,” Miller said ...  Noble asked Miller to submit a written comment in the interest of time.  After the comment period ends, the Army Corps staff will read and respond to each comment individually, he said.  
Mark Lieberman
Northwest Current
May 20, 2015

Lauren Mara Miller 
Mara Miller: [pg. 9]  Some of my neighbors got together over a period of years and reported health problems — there's 26 pages worth of people — house after house after house — but no one [here] wants to talk about it.  It's like a big elephant in the room that no one wants to mention ... I'm here because I was once a kid who got poisoned by that and a grown-up who got poisoned.  And I don't want it to happen to anybody else ... [pg. 14] It's horrible to have your property locked up, but it worse when you whole life is ruined and shortened.
Mara Miller
Remedial Investigation Report
Community Meeting
May 12, 2015

May 7, 2015

Army Corps Comes Clean, Releases Suppressed 1986 Photo Analysis

This report utilizes historical aerial photography to identify potential problem areas at American University, Washington, D.C., originating from past activities at a World War I Chemical Warfare Experimental Station.  During World War I the Bureau of Mines was allowed to use American University and surrounding property to conduct research and small-scale testing of chemical warfare items.  In 1986 American University requested assistance from the Department of the Army in obtaining information relating to these activities.  

Three years of historical aerial photography (1918, 1927, and 1937) were obtained and analyzed by the U.S. EPA's Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center (EPIC) ... Significant features identified include shell pits, trenches, possible test areas, and possible burial sites ... The location of those features identified in the analysis that are related to possible disposal (burial) of munitions and chemical agents have been transferred to a 1982 aerial photograph. 
Historical Photographic Analysis
July 1986, Vol. I (pgs. 24, 28)
1986 EPIC Photo Analysis, Vol. II (fig. 2)
Allen Hengst: [47:05]  Did the report identify areas other than Bender Arena where there might be buried munitions in Spring Valley?
Dan Noble: I don't believe so.  I mean, we'd have to get the report and see the conclusions ... 

Hengst:  Well, I've read about it and I think they did identify areas outside Bender Arena.  So that becomes a crucial event.  In 1986, which was seven years before the discoveries on 52nd Court — before the beginning of Operation Safe Removal — AU knew, the Army knew and EPA knew but they kept quiet about it ... 

Noble:  I mean, let's think about this.  In 1920 the Army completed its activities at American University Experiment Station and left.  Since then, the Army knew what it did ... Institutionally, the Army knew what it did since 1917 ... 

Ginny Durrin I think, to be historically accurate, you should include all of the documentation that was produced by this 1986 effort ... There are aerial maps of Spring Valley showing the ground scars, showing the points of interest (or things that were going to become "Points of Interest") ... Those documents should be in the Tenley Public Library.

  [50:31] I think they are.  If they're not, I'll get a copy of the report and put it in there.

Spring Valley RAB Meeting
May 5, 2015 (audio recording)
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