Sep 27, 2017

"The area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
Donald Rumsfeld

Army Will Peek for Munitions Under AU President’s House

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 23, 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 munitions are being removed today. For more information contact ahengst@verizon.net.

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

Feb 13, 2017

Southern California Pioneers Microbe Perchlorate Treatment

RIALTO -- A defense industry contractor has agreed to pay $700,000 or more annually for the operations and maintenance costs of a perchlorate removal system which uses microbes to break down the harmful chemical.  West Valley Water District made environmental cleanup history late last year by shipping water directly to customers from a $23 million specialized treatment plant at its headquarters.  The agreement with Goodrich Corp. authorizes funding for 100 percent of operations and maintenance costs for up to $700,000 annually for the first year and no cap for subsequent years in the life of the project, West Valley said in a statement.  Negotiations have been going on since 2014.  The talks were the result of a judicial consent decree which requires Goodrich, under the EPA’s oversight, to fund clean-up facilities, said Matthew H. Litchfield, WVWD general manager.  Perchlorate has polluted portions of the Rialto-Colton water basin, the result of past military, industrial and agricultural activities above it ... 
Following the discovery of perchlorate in portions of the Rialto-Colton groundwater basin in 1997, WVWD and the city of Rialto shut down wells in the impacted area.  Following years of testing and review by regulatory agencies, WVWD began, in September 2016, using bio-remediation to remove perchlorate and restore water for potable use.  The plant has the capacity to provide the water needs for about 16,000 of West Valley’s 66,000 customers.  WVWD has begun working on perchlorate destroying plant number two, called a fixed-bed biotreatment plant, which takes a slightly different approach to treatment with the same naturally occurring microbes.  The second plant is expected to deliver water sometime in 2019, Litchfield said.  The operational costs of this second treatment technology will also be paid for by Goodrich, he said.
Jim Steinberg  
San Bernardino County Sun
February 13, 2017

Jan 20, 2017

Partners Signal Preference for Groundwater Remediation

Currently the [Spring Valley FUDS] Groundwater Remedial Investigation is in the preliminary draft and internal Baltimore District review phase of the Feasibility Study (FS).  USACE plans to submit the draft FS to USACE Environmental and Munitions Center of Expertise (EM/CX) for review before the holidays.  Response to CX comments and revising the document will likely take a month or two before the draft final FS can be submitted it to the Partners.  The draft final should be completed by April 2017.  At that time, USACE will submit the draft final to the Partners.  USACE has been following EPA guidance for evaluation of the various alternatives. 
After screening all alternatives, the selected alternatives are as follows: no action alternative, land use control and long term monitoring alternative, in-situ alternative, and a pump-and-treat alternative.  The details will be in the Groundwater FS.  EPA noted that the regulators do not prefer the land use controls with monitoring alternative because of the monitoring aspect.  If there is something unacceptable in the groundwater, the regulators prefer to have a plan for that to be remediated over time.  USACE understands that the Partners’ position is the main issue with the Groundwater RI.  USACE will receive those comments when the Groundwater FS is submitted for Partner review.
Spring Valley FUDS Partners
Meeting Minutes 
December 6, 2016 (pgs. 2 - 3)
 
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