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Washington, D.C. Army Chemical Munitions (Spring Valley)

Current Site Information

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

NW Washington, D.C.

EPA ID# DCD983971136

1st Congressional District

Last Update: February 2014

Other Names

Spring Valley

Current Site Status

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) provides minutes of partnering, Remediation Advisory Board (RAB) and community meetings on their web site accessible on the website link below. The Army Corps also routinely updates this website with project progress reports and notifications of future meetings and events. The Restoration Advisory Board (the local community group) meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every other month (January, March, May, July, September, November) and are open to the public with public comment solicited at each session.

The USACE completed excavation of a a munitions pit on a residential property adjacent to, and owned by the American University. USACE has completing test trenching and arsenic contaminated soil removal at these properties. At the 4825 Glenbrook property USACE has selected removal of the structure and soil under the structure as a remedial action to address the presence of chemical agent and other chemical warfare related materials that may remain on the property. The action is ongoing and will be completed late in 2014.

All identified arsenic removal actions have been completed. All geophysical surveys have been completed. Intrusive investigations were completed at the last planned location on the American University.

In May 2010 USACE destroyed five recovered chemical munitions. Approximately 75 conventional munitions were destroyed in a closed detonation chamber in the summer of 2010. All recovered munitions previously stored at the site have been destroyed. In February of 2012 2 additional conventional munitions were destroyed in the detonation chamber.

The USACE has sampled approximately 1,500 properties for arsenic. Twenty seven additional properties were added to the site in 2006 based on a review of real estate records. Sampling of these properties and land owned by the District within the site is complete. EPA and the District Department of Environment are issuing comfort letters to property owners where sampling and any required remediation has been completed. USACE is attempting to gain access to all properties not previously sampled (approximately 5), and 2 properties where sampling revealed arsenic above 20 ppm, the site cleanup goal. All arsenic remediation (with the exception of 4825 Glenbrook Road) has been completed.

In September of 2005 ATSDR issued a Health Consultation for the Spring Valley Site. ATSDR recommended additional sampling of soil, groundwater and air in specific locations within the Spring Valley Site. The DC Council approved funding for a health study and a contract was awarded to Johns Hopkins for that study, and a report was released in 2007. The report concludes that the health of Spring Valley residents is good; better than National averages and consistent with a reference community with similar demographics. Additional DC funding has been provided for follow-on work by Hopkins.


In late 2003 perchlorate was discovered in groundwater at the site. A groundwater study is underway. Thirty nine monitoring wells have been installed near the Dalecarlia reservoir, adjacent to waste and munition disposal sites in the Spring Valley neighborhood and in other selected locations. Groundwater sampling data collected between 2005 and 2010 has identified two locations in the site where groundwater is contaminated with perchlorate, and one location where groundwater is contaminated with arsenic at elevated levels. The groundwater study continues in 2011 with installation of additional deep wells (approximately 200'). Quarterly sampling of wells and surface water is ongoing.

District Of Columbia Council held a Public Roundtable in May 2009 to discuss issues at the site. EPA testified at the Roundtable. In June of 2009 the Congressional 'COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM, Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia' held a hearing on the site. Members of the public, Army, EPA, District Department of Environment, GAO, and American University provided testimony and answered questions.

Johns Hopkins under contract to the District is performing a review of all site data and previous health studies. This review will be complete in 2013.

 

RAB meetings over the past year have focused the arsenic clean-up; disposal of recovered munitions, chemical sampling other than arsenic, completing site work and pursuit of additional funding to accelerate the cleanup. For more detailed information and updates on RAB issues, public meetings, and background, please access USACE's web site for Spring Valley.

Site Description

Spring Valley is located in the Northwest section of the District of Columbia, including the American University. During WWI this area was known as the American University Experimental Station and Camp Leach, a 660-acre facility used as a research and test center for chemical weapons. The experimental station and chemical laboratories were located on American University property.

In January, 1993 a contractor who was digging a utility trench unearthed World War I munitions in the Spring Valley area of the District of Columbia. During further investigations, munitions were discovered in pits located on the Korean Ambassador property, adjacent to American University and additional pits were also found on the adjacent residential property. The pit excavation and other work at the Korean property has been completed. An additional pit on was found and excavated on an adjacent residence.

Arsenic-contaminated soil has been removed from the Child Development Center play area on American University. Soil removal actions have been completed on several American University Lots and at approximately 90 residential properties.  All soil removals (with a single exception where the property owner has not granted access) have been completed.

The site-wide soil cleanup standard for arsenic has been finalized at 20 ppm by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the DC Health Department. The Mayor's Science Advisory Panel has approved this standard. The arsenic contamination is the result of chemical warfare research carried out at the American University Experimental Station during WWI.

The Army Corps of Engineers provides funding for all cleanup actions at the site from the Defense Environmental Restoration account. To date over $210 million has been budgeted for site cleanup activities. Site work is expected to continue thru 2014.

The USACE has completed excavation of lab waste and debris in an area near the boundary of the American University known as Lot 18. Numerous empty (scrap) munition and several intact bottles were removed from the site. One of the bottles was found to contain a small amount of Lewisite, a blister agent used at the site; a second bottle was found to contain mustard gas. Other chemical agent degradation products have been found in sealed containers. The USACE began excavation of additional lab debris in an adjacent area of the American University in 2008 and completed the action in June 2010. Soil samples have been collected under the Public Safety building.

A Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study are being prepared for a property on Glenbrook Road. Munitions and chemical agent have been recovered from the property. A Proposed Plan for remedial action at this property was issued in 2011. The remedial action is underway and expected to be complete in late 2014.  Small quantities of chemical agent have been found in excavated soil and closed glass containers.  Numerous munitions have been found but none contain chemical agent or explosives.

Site Responsibility

USACE is the lead agency at this site.

NPL Listing History

Not listed on the NPL.

Threats and Contaminants

The primary threats at the site are buried munitions and elevated arsenic in site soils and threats posed by buried munitions, residual from open air agent testing, and lab waste.

Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.

Cleanup Progress

The pit excavation and other work at the Korean property has been completed. An additional pit on the adjacent residence is currently being addressed. Arsenic contaminated soil has been removed from the Child Development Center play area on American University. Soil removal actions have been completed. The site-wide soil cleanup standard for arsenic has been finalized at 20 parts per million (ppm) by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington DC Health Department. The Mayor's Science Advisory Panel has approved this standard. The American University intramural fields have been returned to the University and are back in use and the University is preparing to reoccupy the Child Development Center. To date the Army Corps of Engineers has spent over $210 million on investigation and removal work. Also see the Spring Valley web address above.

Contacts

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