Spring Valley: Overview

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Modified on 2009/10/14 21:40 by admin
The Spring Valley site consists of approximately 661 acres in the northwest section of Washington, DC. During the World War I era, the site was known as the American University Experiment Station (AUES) and was used by the U.S. Government for research and testing of chemical agents, equipment and munitions. Today, the Spring Valley neighborhood encompasses approximately 1,200 private homes, including several embassies and foreign properties, as well as the American University and Wesley Seminary.

On January 5, 1993, while digging a utility trench in Spring Valley, a contractor unearthed buried military ordnance. The U.S. Army Technical Escort Unit initiated an emergency response. This response was completed on February 2, 1993 and resulted in the removal of 141 ordnance items (43 suspect chemical items). On February 3, 1993, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, began a remedial investigation of the site. Using historical documentation-reports, maps and photosthe Corps focused its investigation on specific sites that were determined to have the greatest potential for contamination. These sites were referred to as Points of Interest (POIs). During the extensive, two-year investigation that followed, 53 POIs were identified and investigated. Geophysical surveys were conducted at every POI, plus an additional 10 percent check was performed on properties around each POI. Of the 492 properties surveyed, a total of 840 anomalies were identified and investigated-no burial pits were found. In all, four ordnance items were found, and none contained chemical warfare material. In addition, soil samples were collected from each POIa total of 260 samples. They were tested and analyzed by both the Corps and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No chemical agents, chemical warfare agent-unique breakdown products, explosives or explosive breakdown products were found in any of the soil samples taken. These findings were documented in a Remedial Investigation Report in March 1995. This report was followed by a No Further Action Record of Decision in June 1995.

In 1996, the D.C. Health Department sent a letter to the Corps with concerns about the investigation. While evaluating these concerns, the Corps identified that an error had been made in the location of one of the POIs--POI24. It had been mislocated by about 150 feet. In 1998, a geophysical survey of this new area identified two large metallic areas, which were indicative of possible burial pits below the ground surface. A plan was developed, and in March 1999 an intrusive investigation of this area located two large burial pits. One year later, the work was completed. A total of over 600 items were recovered to include 288 ordnance-related items. Of those items, 14 were evaluated to have chemical warfare agent, predominantly mustard agent. Following this work, soil samples were collected from the site. Test results indicated elevated levels of arsenic were present in portions of the site. Following a comprehensive risk assessment of the site, the Corps determined that the top two feet of soil in the affected areas should be removed and replaced with new soil. This work began in December 2000.

Based on these findings, it was determined in January 2001 that the area of investigation should be expanded. A plan was developed to conduct arsenic sampling on 61 private residences and the southern portion of American University. These areas are near the site of the disposal pits. Sampling was completed at 42 of the 61 properties. Eleven property owners would not grant permission, and attempts to reach eight others were unsuccessful. Based on the results of this sampling, nine properties and several lots on the American University campus were recommended for further detailed sampling. One of these locations involves the area around the American University Child Development Center. Given the sensitivity of this area, soil sampling around the center was expedited and the results provided to the university. The results identified arsenic levels higher than acceptable for a residential area. University officials have relocated the Child Development Center to another area of the campus until this issue can be resolved. At the request of the D.C. Health Department, EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are conducting an exposure study of the children attending the center.

In January 2001, the Corps completed the cleanup of a small disposal area located on American University. During this work, the Corps removed 160, 55-gallon barrels of soil and glass and metal debris. The soil and debris were tested and no chemical warfare material was found. Confirmation samples at the base of the excavation were found to have elevated levels of lead and arsenic. This area of native soil will be further excavated to remove these contaminants. In addition, the sediment in a small stream that runs through this area will also be removed. Concurrently with this work, the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center (EPIC) has reviewed archives and found several additional aerial photographs of the Spring Valley area. Using this new information, the Corps has provided EPIC with a list of areas to review. To date, this ongoing review has guided the Corps' decision to conduct test pits at one property near the location of the disposal pits. Also, this review has led the Corps to agree to conduct some additional investigations of several properties located on the Sedgwick trench system.

See Also

  1. Specific Contaminated Sites
  2. Cancer
  3. Coma: Overview
  4. Head & Brain Injury
  5. Headaches
  6. Keratosis: Overview
  7. Kidney Failure
  8. Melanosis: Overview
  9. Nausea: Overview
  10. Seizures: Overview
  11. Severe Constipation: Overview
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