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
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