Army Corps of Engineers, Project Update

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MEMORANDUM
September 18, 2013

 TO: Campus Community
 FROM: David Taylor, President’s Chief of Staff
 SUBJECT: Army Corps of Engineers Resumption of Activities

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For more than 20 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting clean-up operations to remove World War I materiel discovered at various locations on or near the American University main campus and throughout the Spring Valley neighborhood. The presence of these materials dates back to 1917-18, when parts of the AU campus and the surrounding area were used by the U.S. government and the U.S. Army to support the war effort as a site to develop and test chemical weapons.

On September 23, 2013, the Army Corps is scheduled to resume excavation activities along Glenbrook Road, which parallels the southern border of AU’s campus, as designated on the attached map. The Army Corps has conducted work on that site (4825 Glenbrook Road) for the past 10 years. The operations will occur between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; the Army Corps will not work on weekends or holidays.

This new phase of the project entails the exploration of an area where World War I era munitions were previously discovered; tests conducted on munitions removed from this site indicate the possible presence of chemical agents.

All Army Corps work plans and engineering protocols have been thoroughly reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, D.C. Department of the Environment, and American University.

Given the nature of these materials, the Army Corps has implemented extensive safety precautions including a containment structure and filtration units around the excavation area to prevent the release of harmful chemicals into the environment in unlikely case of an accident, and monitors to detect any unusual airborne agent.

The university wants to ensure that everyone knows the excavation is taking place and is prepared to take appropriate actions if necessary. Although these precautions may seem excessive, they university’s response will continue to be based on ensuring the maximum level of safety for AU’s faculty, students, staff, and visitors.

The area of primary focus for the dedicated safety measures on the AU campus is the southwest corner of campus including the Watkins Building and the edge of the Jacobs Field.

The Army Corps has deployed an emergency notification system, which includes sirens, strobe lights, and an automated telephone/email notification system. This system will be tested on a monthly basis, on the first Wednesday of each month at 4:05 p.m.

If the notification system is activated because of a suspected release of a hazardous substance, you are instructed to respond as follows:

  • If you are inside or near the entrance of the Watkins Building, go into the building and shelter-in-place. You will be given additional instructions by the building marshal.
  • If you are near or on Jacobs Field or are in the area between the Watkins and Kreeger Buildings, you should move away from the area as quickly as possible and assemble at the Letts-Anderson shuttle bus stop across from Public Safety.
  • Public Safety officers will be responding to the area to direct individuals away from the vicinity.


We will provide additional information as helpful or needed. Information such as updates and project background are online.

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