Dec 21, 2017

NPR Broadcast Delves 'Inside America’s Chemical Arms Race'

Joshua Johnson: It's been about a hundred years since the U.S. developed chemical weapons to use during World War I weapons that still, to this day are not fully accounted for ...

Theo Emory: In World War I the American University campus was used as a chemical warfare research facility ... It had people in Spring Valley very concerned and I think, at various times, it had American University concerned.  It was right in the heart of Washington, DC.  There was this huge mystery over what was buried in the ground: what was there, what remained and was it a danger ...

JohnsonLesley emailed, I have a question for Theo: "Would he buy a house or move into the area around AU knowing what he knows about the history of chemical weapons testing and dumping in the area?  It's an ongoing debate in my family."

Emory: It is an ongoing debate and it goes on on a [bimonthly] basis in Spring Valley when the residents get together with the Army Corps of Engineers and talk about updates at the cleanup, which has been going on for 25 years now ...

Dan Noble: The Spring Valley Formerly Used Defense Site is about 650 acres.  We have laid out in a Decision Document that was signed this past June what we feel are some final tasks that we need to do on a site-wide basis to clean up ... And as well, we have an investigation ongoing into some groundwater contamination that's associated with the Experiment Station ...

Emory: There has been some concern in the neighborhood about what AU has disclosed, what they knew and when they knew it ... But, as Dan said, communications are probably better now than they ever have been in the past. 
1A "Speaking Freely"
WAMU-FM 88.5
December 19, 2017

Nov 28, 2017

Army Will Bore 15 Holes through 4835 Glenbrook Basement Dec. 4

The cleanup of a World War I chemical weapons testing site is on hold for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares to drill holes in the basement of the American University president’s official residence, looking for evidence of discarded munitions.  More than five years after the house at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. NW, was removed, and as the cleanup of toxic munitions neared completion, the Army Corps will soon bore approximately 15 2-inch holes through the basement foundation, and in the yard and back patio of 4835 Glenbrook Rd. ... In a Sept. meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, project manager Brenda Barber said recent testing has found low levels of Mustard and Lewisite, which were used in World War I chemical weapons.
The colorless and odorless compounds can cause blistering and lung irritation.  Barber said the test bores will be done the week of Dec. 4 ... Barber said it is premature to discuss the possibility that remediation could include razing the home, which is currently valued at $3,898,350, according to D.C.’s Office of Tax and Revenue.  “I don’t want to be predecisional, but we definitely are doing our due diligence,” said Barber.  Regardless, Barber said it is unlikely excavation will resume in the next several months, so the Army Corps will essentially shut-down the site, save for a skeleton staff ... The university’s new president, Sylvia Burwell, had planned to live in the home, which is owned by the university, but will not, because of the ongoing work.  The recent discovery and upcoming testing is causing a substantial delay to the cleanup project.
Neal Augenstein
November 28, 2017

Nov 3, 2017

Please Don't "Minimize" Overdue Cleanup at 4835 Glenbrook Road

I’m grateful for The Current’s tenacious coverage of the Army Corps’ ongoing 24-year cleanup of World War I-era munitions and chemical contamination in Northwest Washington.  Your Sept. 27 article — “Spring Valley munitions cleanup to scrutinize AU president’s house” — was a typically concise and accurate report on the Army’s recent decision to look again at the vacant 4835 Glenbrook Road NW home (a controversial location, which officials previously insisted did not constitute a health threat to the community).  It took the hospitalization of seven of its own cleanup crew members after exposure to chemical agent on Aug. 9 before the Army finally reconsidered its premature closeout of the investigation there [“Glenbrook Road munitions cleanup paused after workers hospitalized,” Aug. 16, The Current].  I take exception to project manager Dan Noble casting doubt on construction workers’ recent statements — that 4835 Glenbrook (the American University president’s house) was built atop hazardous materials — by claiming that the worker’s comments in the 1990s about 4825 Glenbrook (the adjoining property) were more accurate ...  
I speak as the filmmaker who provided transcripts to the Army Corps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment from two decades of my interviews with these workers ... At the May 2016 and May 2017 meetings of the Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board, these same workers drove from their homes in West Virginia to speak out publicly with courage and conviction concerning their eyewitness observations of chemical warfare materiel buried under the concrete beneath 4835 Glenbrook Road.  Yet the Army Corps keeps trying to minimize or deny the eyewitness testimony of the real heroes of Spring Valley.  The dozen or so test pits, which the Army now intends to drill along the basement wall of 4835 Glenbrook’s perimeter, are a good start. But more thorough testing throughout the basement, crawl space and garage of 4835 is needed to truly investigate these persistent memories of coverup.
Ginny Durrin
Northwest Current
November 1, 2017

Oct 31, 2017

Environmental Group Leads Toxic Tours of Former WW I Army Base

AUES Spring Valley tours provide context to better understand the issues surrounding the cleanup of this Formerly Used Defense Site. Tours focus on historical features of the American University Experiment Station, the current Army Corps of Engineers cleanup operations and residents’ health problems. Tours are led by a former Restoration Advisory Board member and Spring Valley resident. Each tour takes approximately 1½ hours.  Participants see where testing occurred during World War I and where chemical warfare materiel is being removed today. For more information contact

Oct 28, 2017

Explosive Look into Dawn of Chemical Warfare During WW I

During World War I, American University had turned over its campus to the army ... The army leased the fields and wooded dells around the campus to use as a proving ground.  They lobbed mortars and dug trenches.  They tested chemicals on dogs, goats, and other animals, and on men as well.  Many years before the area became Spring Valley, the dell behind the campus earned the nicknames "Death Valley" and "Arsenic Valley."  The soldiers called the hilltop campus Mustard Hill ... After the U.S. Army Corps on Engineers closed the investigation and declared the cleanup of Fifty-Second Court complete, questions arose about another spot across Spring Valley, where houses had been built on the back [south] side of the American University campus ... The corps resisted reopening the investigation, but when they did, they promptly found new chemical weapons detritus, including pits containing hundreds of munitions, some with mustard agent inside, buried in the backyard of the South Korean ambassador's residence.
The new discoveries embarrassed the Army Corps on Engineers and stirred lingering suspicion about the army's commitment to cleaning up Spring Valley.  The environmental remediation, estimated to eventually cost more than $300 million, was still ongoing at press time.  On a crisp November morning in 2012, I stood in a gaggle of reporters in the driveway of a stately brick two-story house ... More than ninety years earlier, Sergeant Maurer had stood on the same hillside and posed beside the pit called Hades with the jars and bottles of chemicals lined up next to him.  The house in front of us had been built atop that spot [sic], and the photo helped to pinpoint the pit's location beneath the back patio of that house ...  The cleanup of the property had proved so complicated, with so many lingering questions about what was still buried there, that the army decided that the easiest route was simply to demolish the house altogether and cart away whatever lay beneath ... In a sense, Hellfire Boys began that day.
... The more I searched for information about the American University Experiment Station, the more puzzled I grew over how little was known about what had happened there.  It seemed strange that this history of chemical warfare in the United States, with its mysterious laboratory tucked into the nation's capital, could be so little understood and so poorly documented ... Since then, I've visited or contacted dozens of libraries and archives.  I've filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the army and the FBI ... [My research] took me into the living rooms of descendants of the soldiers in the Chemical Warfare Service, descendants who were proud of their ancestors but not always comfortable with the work nervous — they wanted it told fairly, dispassionately, factually.  I promised to do the best that I could.  I stand by that pledge.
Theo Emery
Hellfire Boys (pgs. xvii - xx)

Oct 25, 2017

EAGLE Documents Long History of Munitions Cleanup on AU Campus

When the Army Corps of Engineers first closed the Intramural Field for arsenic testing in March 2001, American University could not have anticipated it would still be grappling with cleanup projects over 16 years later.  Now, the work being done on 4825 Glenbrook Road has been paused until investigators know why workers digging on the site showed signs of chemical exposure in August ... The history of the project extends back to 1917, when the U.S. Army used AU’s campus to test chemical weapons during World War I.  Army operations were held in Northwest Washington in what is now known as the Spring Valley neighborhood.  ACE tried for years to pinpoint the location of a waste pit that was captured in a 1918 photograph.
On the back of the photograph, Sergeant Charles Maurer, who is shown standing over the pit, wrote: “The most feared and respected place on the grounds. The bottles are full of mustard [gas], to be destroyed here. In Death Valley. The hole called Hades” ... ACE returned to the Spring Valley neighborhood in the 1990s for cleanup and testing after ACE’s discovery of leftover materials from the project, including exploded munitions items, some of which are still being discovered on AU’s campus ... Arsenic was found at the Glenbrook site in 2010, The Eagle previously reported, and ACE demolished the house there in 2012.  The University also owns a residential property at 4835 Glenbrook Road: the currently vacant official residence for the University President ...
Current AU president Sylvia Burwell was planning to move into the property, according to the Northwest Current, but now will not after more testing in the house’s basement was announced in September.  According to a 2013 Washingtonian article, ACE planned to spend an estimated $12 million to excavate and restore the Glenbrook Road site.  At the time, ACE said the dig “could last into 2014.”  Four years later, ACE is still working to excavate the site, and will continue to clean and test the area well into 2018 ... Next up in the project, the area surrounding the demolished Public Safety building will be examined for munitions debris ... While AU officials have long held that students are not at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals on campus, AU alumni recently formed a Facebook group to share concerns about the safety of the athletics fields near the Glenbrook site and the old Public Safety building area.
Nazli Togrul

Sep 27, 2017

Army Corps to Peek for Munitions Under AU President’s Residence

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to drill 12 to 15 holes in the basement of 4835 Glenbrook Road NW, after environmental remediation workers suffered apparent chemical exposure along the Spring Valley home’s property line.  The property — the currently vacant official residence for American University’s president — adjoins the neighborhood’s most infamous address: 4825 Glenbrook, where the Army’s cleanup efforts have included razing a home and excavating down to bedrock.  The news came at the Sept. 12 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, a body that oversees the Army’s cleanup of World War I-era munitions and chemical contamination in Spring Valley and the American University campus.  “We didn’t see any of this previously,” the Army’s Brenda Barber said at the meeting.  Barber said the Army doesn’t expect to demolish 4835 Glenbrook, but officials added that the possibility exists if the investigation uncovers dangerous chemicals below the home. “If there are chemical agents under the house, we’re not going to leave them there,” the Army’s Dan Noble said.
Sylvia Burwell, the new American University president, had originally planned to move into the property but now will not.  Christine Dieterich, who lives across the street at 4830 Glenbrook, blasted the cleanup leadership for saying previously there were no problems at 4835.  During the major cleanup of 4825, she took her two small children to live in a nearby rental apartment to ensure their safety.  “You tell me my kids are safe,” she said at the meeting, which she attended with her attorney.  “You don’t have a clue” ... A board of investigation has interviewed the workers and their medical personnel, and is reviewing all project data of the day of the incident as well as the project’s work plans, procedures and safety protocols.  A report is due by the end of October.  Several residents active on the Spring Valley cleanup issue have pointed to comments by construction workers who built 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook in the early 1990s.  Some workers said in 2013 that both houses were built atop hazardous materials, but Noble said that information contradicts workers’ 1990s accounts.
Northwest Current
September 27, 2107 (pg. 3)

Aug 16, 2017

Glenbrook Road Cleanup Halted after Seven Workers Hospitalized

Workers cleaning up a contaminated Spring Valley property were hospitalized last Wednesday after suffering symptoms of possible chemical exposure, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the cleanup effort.  In response to the Aug. 9 incident, the Army has suspended excavation at the 4825 Glenbrook Road NW property and is now reviewing its next steps ... The Army Corps has been cleaning up the Spring Valley neighborhood since 1993, when it became clear that the area had been contaminated by World War I-era chemical munitions testing conducted by the U.S. Army at American University.  The property at 4825 Glenbrook is perhaps the neighborhood’s most notorious, and the Army tore down the home in 2012 to fully investigate the site and remove its soil down to bedrock.  
Last Wednesday, workers were hand-digging along the property line between 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook — American University’s official president’s residence, which is currently unoccupied — when they suffered “eye and skin irritation and other minor symptoms,” according to a [Aug. 10] message from the Army to the community.  The workers reported an odor consistent with mustard breakdown products, and seven of them were hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon and released that night.  The work was taking place in a section of the property that the Army terms “low probability” — meaning that it had fewer protections than “high probability” locations, where excavation was conducted under the cover of a protective tent ... The workers were hand-digging between 5 and 10 feet below ground level when the possible exposure occurred, according to [Army Corps spokesperson Christopher] Gardner.  

They were wearing gloves and other protective clothing ... It may take months before excavation resumes at 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook, Gardner said, pending the results of the Army’s review.  In the meantime, protective plastic sheeting is covering the area where the workers suffered possible exposure, and investigators will be on site this week testing for the presence of various chemicals there.  According to Gardner, the workers had been finding scattered pieces of broken glass related to the Army’s World War I-era activities, and areas of soil there were contaminated with “small black chunks of material with low levels of mustard agent and agent breakdown product.”  Once the project resumes, excavation will take place on both sides of the property line, Gardner said.
Brady Holt
Northwest Current
August 16, 2017

Late yesterday afternoon around 3pm, while hand digging soils along the shared property line, our teams began exhibiting symptoms of possible exposure.  This included eye and skin irritation and other minor symptoms.  The teams were in level D Personal Protective Equipment with a slung mask (paper Tyvek suit, rubber over boots, and nitrile gloves) while hand excavating soils.  The teams underwent decontamination on site and were sent for medical monitoring per our safety plans and procedures.  Seven team members were transported to George Washington Hospital at approximately 4pm.  The team received another decontamination shower courtesy of the hospital staff, then medical monitoring began.  The team underwent urinalysis for mustard exposure and blood samples were taken from everyone ... 

There were no detections on any of our air monitoring equipment during the excavation activities that would indicate agent migrated away the excavation area, but the team did note they smelled an odor at the excavation area which could indicate the presence of mustard breakdown products ... The MINICAMS, our first line of detection, did not detect any signs of contaminants in the air.  Additionally, the handheld equipment to monitoring for arsine and hydrogen chloride (HCL) did not detect any contaminants ... The DAAMs tube results for yesterday indicate no agent was detected at any of the perimeter locations or the dig site location as well so we had no sign of any agent or agent breakdown products outside of the soil itself where crews were working.
Carrie Johnston
Glenbrook Road Project Special Update
August 10, 2017

Jul 26, 2017

Spring Valley FUDS Cleanup Extends to AU South Campus

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its investigation of munitions-related contamination in the Spring Valley area, including the site of American University’s recently demolished Public Safety Building.  The small 1960s building was located on the south end of campus near Rockwood Parkway NW, where the Army conducted chemical weapons testing during the World War I era.  The Army Corps has been cleaning up areas of the campus and dozens of nearby homes for 25 years.  Brenda Barber, an Army Corps project manager, provided a community update on the cleanup progress at the July 11 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board.  The Army will look for buried munitions and contaminated soil at the Public Safety Building site and will remove any hazards it finds.  The site will then be turned back over to the university, probably in early 2018.
Northwest Current

July 26, 2017 

Jun 30, 2017

Worker Recants Taking Chemical Bottle from 4835 Glenbrook Road

The Fry family (father and two sons) attended the May RAB and made some significant claims about their recollections of their activities at 4825 Glenbrook Road and 4835 Glenbrook Road during the construction of the 2 properties.  During and after the meeting, James Fry (the father) indicated he had taken a liter bottle of liquid from 4835 Glenbrook Road and kept the bottle in a safety deposit box in West Virginia ... That afternoon [May 17], the USACE District Engineer (DE) contacted the father and the son.  During the conversation with the USACE DE, James Fry admitted that he lied about the bottle to see if he could get USACE’s attention ...  The USACE DE informed the FBI of the details of his call with James Fry.  The FBI ran background checks on James Fry and decided to close the file unless additional information was received.  EPA Region III noted that the case was handled by EPA’s criminal enforcement division

The concern was if there was a bottle with chemical agent in a safe deposit box in a bank somewhere.  Even though the bottle may have been there for 20 years, it is not known if the bottle was leaking or not, or if the bottle may leak in the future.  USACE has significant concerns about the credibility of this family now ... The areas of debris on 4835 Glenbrook Road that the Fry family is recalling are now under the poured basement floor and in the crawlspace.  In order to even investigate the Fry family’s potential claims the process of investigation would significantly damage the home ... P. Chrostowski, CPF Associates, commented that ... American University would like the issue to be resolved definitively, but he believed that the issue is similar to that of the Public Safety Building where there may be something underneath the house, but as long as it is undisturbed it is not a hazard to anyone. 
Spring Valley FUDS
Partnering Meeting minutes
June 13, 2017 (pgs. 4 - 7)

Tom Smith: If you went back to [the workers] with a formal invitation from the RAB, expressing our interest in their participation in a site visit and coming to the RAB meeting to share information with us, do you think that they would not do that?  Do you think their reluctance to commit to a site visit could be because it is USACE making the invitation?

Dan Noble explained that he did not know the reason.  His concerns are that he does not know what USACE could do with the information the Fry family might provide, and the veracity of what the Fry family says, based on what has happened since the May RAB meeting.

Smith: But I think that is something you judge after you hear it.  I hear the concern about the bottle.  I also can understand, if you are telling me that I am going to have the FBI down my back, I am going to tell you that I do not have it anymore ... There has been so much talk over the years about what the workers knew or did not know.  What we are hearing, from talking to a couple real estate agents over the weekend, is that housing prices in the neighborhood are being depressed.  When I ask “why,” I am told it is because of the munitions issue.  When I say “why now, given that this has been an issue for many, many years and has not really had the impact,” what I am being told is the perception out there is that it is starting back up again ... 

Mary Douglas: A neighbor, who seems pretty knowledgeable and is starting a magazine about this area, said that prices are depressed about 10% below what they would be.  I think the one reason that they may be somewhat depressed in some areas is because of the 100 house examination for munitions ... I went on this website called D.C. Urban Moms where there was a lot of hysterical talk [sic] by these young mothers about how they would never buy in Spring Valley.   
Spring Valley RAB
Summary of Conference Call
June 15, 2017 (pgs. 4 - 10)

Jun 1, 2017

Demolition of Public Safety Building Will Begin in June

The Public Safety Building, located on the south end of campus behind Anderson and Letts Halls, will be demolished this month, according to memos released by AU officials ... David Dower, the University’s assistant vice president of planning and project management, wrote in a May 15 memo that the demolition will begin on or about June 1 ... A 2015 report released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) revealed that there are likely residual World War I munitions buried beneath the Public Safety building.  During World War I, AU was used as a testing site for military weapons, including ammunition and chemical weapons.  Following the war, land owned by the University was used to bury hazardous materials and remaining munitions, The Eagle previously reported ... Kelly Alexander, AU’s director of public relations, said the University notified ACE in May 2016 that it intended to demolish the building in conjunction with the opening of East Campus and wanted ACE to finish its remediation work required for the area. 
“The Army Corps allocated funds in its current budget for the [building’s] remediation work and is in the process of developing the work and safety plans for this project,” Alexander said in an email ... Following the demolition, Dower wrote in his May 15 memo that AU expects ACE to conduct additional remediation activities in the area during the fall 2017 semester ... “Once they get to the foundation, we would plan to have our crews carry out the rest of the removal,” [ACE communications official Chris] Gardner said.  “Once the foundation is removed, we would work to excavate a great deal of the material below the foundation as we work to remove debris.  Our crews will also sample the soil, testing for any potential contaminants that could stem from past military activity and removing any contaminated soils.”  The timeframe for the removal project depends on what ACE encounters at the site, Gardner said.
Haley Samsel
The Eagle
June 1, 2017

May 16, 2017

Angry Construction Workers Stir Up May Advisory Board Meeting

Two workers from the 1990’s residential construction effort at both 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook Road attended this week’s Restoration Advisory Board meeting.  After the meeting, the workers who had travelled from West Virginia and the project team had a long, productive conversation.  We immediately sent them last year’s ATSDR Health Consultation report and ATSDR contact information so they could discuss their health concerns.  We again invited the workers to tour the project site and adjacent property at 4835 Glenbrook Road, to share their recollections from initial construction.  We are coordinating the logistics for this site visit soon.  At the request of the RAB, we will present an update on our ongoing dialogue with the workers and their upcoming site visit at the next RAB meeting, scheduled for Tuesday evening July 11.  The workers were also invited to return to a future RAB meeting to share their recollections from the construction of the two properties.
Spring Valley FUDS
RAB Meeting Update
May 12, 2017

Worker #1I know more than y'all have ever said or put out to the public.  You sugar-coat and coverup so much.  You only put out what you think people want to hear ... I have proof beyond a shadow of doubt of what came off of 4835.

Brenda Barber:  We'd be more than happy to discuss that with you.  We don't have access to Mr. Brandt's payroll.  We've been trying to gain access to that ...

Worker #1Once this first started and it went through Lawrence Brandt and the people who bought the house originally — once you found out there was really a lot of [chemical] agents and problems there — all of the employees should have been the first people to be notified and taken care of.  You're not the one who has health issues.  You're not the one who suffers and neither are the rest of these people sitting here ... Lawrence Brandt, American University and the government have literally shafted us ... I was at a [RAB] meeting one year ago across New Mexico Avenue in that church basement.  I talked to the RAB after that meeting — again, she waited until late October, the first of November and then pushed it off.  I had no way to contact her; she never called me.  She was supposed to have set up a meeting "within the next few weeks" ...

Worker #2You were talking about going two feet past the [4825] property line or however far over ... When you're being told by people that worked there — that built it — that it's under the house.  There's as much, if not more, under 4835 than 4825.

Barber:  And as I was trying to say earlier: there’s no physical way — without removing the house — for me to go under the house and do any type of investigative effort …

Worker #2If I set a bottle on the table that came out from under 4835, will you look at it? ...  Keith Powell gave me permission to remove the bottle.  I took it home with me.  I've got it under lock and key ... And that's just one bottle out of the thousands that were crushed. 
Spring Valley FUDS
RAB Meeting Minutes 
May 9, 2017 (pg. 11 - 14)

May 12, 2017

Landscapers Find Old Livens Round in AU President's Garden

 Livens round found in AU President's garden (4/28/17)
On April 28th, munition debris from an old Livens round was found in a landscaped area near the American University President's office building (see attached pictures).  The item was found in the garden to the left of the driveway/parking area leading up to the President's office building.  It was discovered by an AU landscaping crew while digging just below the surface.  Our Site Safety Officer, an Army Corps ordinance expert, went to the AU campus location to evaluate the situation.  He carefully dug up the item and mitigated the area in order to return to perform soil sampling if necessary.  The munition debris was immediately double-bagged and transported to Federal Property.  As a reminder, Livens were one of the munitions used at the American University Experiment Station during WWI.  As a conservative measure, we will perform further testing for the presence of WWI chemical agent.  Any findings and updates will be reported in a few weeks in the May Monthly Project Summary.
Community Outreach Team
Spring Valley Project Update
May 12, 2017

Apr 7, 2017

'Unknown Black Substance' Stops Excavation Behind Retaining Wall

Five years after the house at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. NW, was removed, in the Spring Valley neighborhood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells WTOP the final stages of the cleanup of toxic munitions is in the midst of a brief pause, after crews found an unknown black substance mixed with soil on the property.  “We don’t know what it is, but it has low levels of mustard,” said Chris Gardner, spokesman with the Corps’ Baltimore District.  In functioning weapons, mustard gas can cause large blisters on skin and in lungs.  After the April discovery of the substance, the Army Corps, Environmental Protection Agency and [DC's] Department of Energy & Environment performed additional soil sampling, and decided to pause the cleanup, to factor-in plans for handling the soil.
The project partners determined the low risk of the soil did not require enlarging the fenced-in safety zone ... The Spring Valley project began in 1993, when a contractor unearthed buried military ordinance on nearby 52nd Court NW. During World War I the U.S. government researched and tested chemical agents, equipment, and munitions at the American University Experiment Station Since 2000, more than 500 munition items, 400 pounds of laboratory glassware, and 100 tons of contaminated soil have been removed from the site, according to the Corps ... Gardner said the project will likely resume by the end of May or beginning of June. 
Neal Augenstein

During our efforts [along the shared property line between 4825 and 4835 Glenbrook Road] we encountered small amounts of broken glassware and an unknown solid black substance in the soil.  Samples of the solid black substance recovered this week are being sent for analysis.  The first small sample of this substance was recovered and taken for analysis toward the end of February, and the results returned this week showed a small amount of mustard and agent breakdown products within the substance.  Our air monitors did not detect any chemicals present in the air during excavation operations associated with the unknown black solid ... We will continue to follow all safety protocol as we continue to hand dig and sift through the soil behind the retaining wall.
Glenbrook Road Update
On Wednesday, during low probability operations along the shared property, the crew encountered additional amounts of the unknown black substance mixed with the soil behind the retaining wall.  The area was quickly mitigated by covering it with plastic sheeting and a layer of soil.  The team decided to perform additional sampling of the soils and materials behind the former curved retaining wall area along the shared property line.  We had a small crew come in this morning to take soil samples adjacent to the unknown black substance, plus additional samples of the unknown substance.  As safety is our priority, we have decided to shift our area of operations within the site.  We plan to resume our efforts in the backyard area of the property while awaiting the sampling results. 
Glenbrook Road Update
April 7, 2017

Mar 18, 2017

Pilot Project Evaluated Three Different Geophysical Instruments

In November, our team completed the Pilot Project at three selected residential properties.  The collected data is currently being used to evaluate the suitability of using two newly developed “Advanced Classification” geophysical instruments [the Time domain Electromagnetic Multi-sensor Towed Array Detection System (TEMTADS) and Man Portable Vector (MPV)] within the Spring Valley residential area to detect and correctly identify buried munitions and explosives of concern related items during upcoming cleanup activities outlined in Site-Wide Decision Document being finalized ... For the purposes of the Pilot Project, all detected anomalies were intrusively investigated (dug up and removed from the ground).  About 200 anomalies on average were removed from each property.  The purpose of this effort was to verify if the new instruments were characterizing the anomalies correctly.  The majority of the items were innocuous non-military related cultural debris, such as nails, wire, bottle caps, and wire baskets.  Four pieces of munitions debris were also removed from the site: three fragments of munitions debris and one three inch Stokes mortar, which was determined to be an unfused practice round and did not contain any explosive or chemicals.  The TEMTADS and MPV both identified the Stokes mortar correctly.
Spring Valley USACE
The Corps'pondent
February 2017 (pg. 2)
[Project Manager Dan] Noble added that what is also interesting about the new technology is that it is the same technology as the EM-61 instrument that missed the target in previous investigations ... because the target was too close to the house.  These new instruments, because they are very focused on the ground immediately underneath the instruments, have very good resolution for what is directly underneath them.  The new instruments were able to clearly see that there was an anomalous area using the exact same EM (electromagnetic) technology that formerly was blind in the same area ... The previous instrument was the size of a lawnmower and recorded GPS coordinates of targets for later review.  The new technique includes the same dynamic scan, and when a target is located the team will go back and perform a cued investigation.  The cued investigation is the second part of the survey in which the instrument is parked directly over the target for approximately 30 to 60 seconds.  A tremendous amount of data calculations are created concerning decay constants of the target.  This allows the precision of location and identification of the target, leading to a better excavation decision.
Restoration Advisory Board
Meeting Minutes
January 10, 2017 (pg. 6)

The summary of the Pilot Project results did confirm that Advanced Geophysical Classification (AGC) is more effective at munitions detection than the current conventional EM-61 digital geophysical mapping methods used, but that there were some challenges.  It was also concluded that AGC should be used with the G-858 magnetometer in order to detect large items at deeper depths.  The report concluded that TEMTADS and the MPV each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but that either instrument could be efficiently used for the full scale munitions remediation throughout Spring Valley.  The AGC method would provide the highest level of confidence in the geophysical surveys.  USACE expects the AGC method will provide less anomaly investigation throughout the remedial action for the Spring Valley FUDS.
Spring Valley FUDS Partners
Meeting Minutes
February 9, 2017 (pg. 4)

Mar 1, 2017

Novel Strategy to Deal with Toxic Contamination: Do Nothing

At toxic cleanup sites across the country, environmental agencies have allowed groundwater contamination to go untreated and slowly diminish over time — a strategy that saves money for polluters but could cost taxpayers dearly and jeopardize drinking water supplies.  The strategy is called monitored natural attenuation, or MNA ... It basically means keeping a watchful eye while natural processes purge groundwater of chemical pollution.  According to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, it’s an acceptable approach under some circumstances.  That includes when contaminants are expected to degrade in years rather than centuries, and where there is no risk of polluted water seeping into, and spoiling, fresh water supplies ... 
Some advocates and experts say MNA sometimes has been approved in violation of EPA guidelines.  Because it is usually much simpler and cheaper than active cleanup methods — such as pumping water out of the ground and treating it — they say that MNA is being aggressively pushed by polluters at many contaminated sites, often with too little pushback from regulator ... According to data from the EPA, MNA is in use at 85 of 141 U.S. military sites that are classified as Superfund sites ... A separate assessment shows that in 2011, the most recent year tracked, 31 percent of EPA groundwater cleanup decisions involved some use of MNA ... Why can’t the EPA and state environmental regulators simply demand an active cleanup when they think MNA is the wrong choice? 
It largely comes down to money.  The cleanup of Defense and Energy department sites depends on Congressional appropriations, and the amount of available funding is limited ...  Officials at an array of agencies, however, struggled to figure out how to regulate MNA, prompting the Environmental Protection Agency to issue an MNA directive in 1999.  That directive, and the EPA's updated guidelines, state that MNA shouldn’t be applied when, among other things, the source of pollutants isn’t yet under control, when the tainted groundwater is still spreading and when the contaminants won’t break down to safe levels within a “reasonable” period.   
Dan Ross
Fair Warning
February 28, 2017
Hit CountersFree Hit Counter