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Army Corps of Engineers, Project Update | Archive

February 12, 2002

 TO:  Restoration Advisory Board
 FROM:  David Taylor, President's Office, American University
 SUBJECT:  Follow-up from January 8, 2002 Meeting

Jim Girard, Professor of Chemistry at American University and the University's representative to the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), indicated that several issues were raised at the January 8, 2002 RAB meeting. The information in this memorandum is intended to provide factual background for questions you may have about the University and its role in the Army Corps of Engineers project in Spring Valley. If you have other questions in the future dealing with history or policy, you may wish to direct them to me and we will be happy to respond. I would also like to remind you that the hearings held on Capitol Hill in July 2001 included a substantial amount of historical information that is part of the public record.

University Archives. The University Archives contain a great deal of information about the history of American University, including the Army's presence on the campus during World War I. Our Archives are open and accessible to anyone who wishes to conduct historical research. They have been used extensively by journalists, government agencies, and community members to learn about the Army Corps activities in Northwest Washington during WWI. The only documents not in the public archives are those dealing with the University as a private corporation.

The Possibility of a Bunker on the University Campus. The Army Corps, D.C. Health Department, and EPA continue to pursue various scientific methodologies, such as geophysical surveys and photographic interpretation, to assist them in determining what points of interest require further investigation. As in the past, AU will continue to cooperate with these agencies to determine, based on scientific methodologies, whether a munitions bunker exists on University property, and we will ensure that proper action is taken should such a determination be made. As information becomes available to us, we will be happy to share it with the RAB. For all historical information regarding possible army structures, activities, and map coordinates, questions should be sent directly to the Army.

Watkins and Kreeger Buildings. Last year, the Corps excavated soil at the small disposal area located behind the Kreeger and Hamilton buildings. The Corps removed soil, glass, and metal debris, but no warfare agents were detected. During the excavation, members of the campus who use the Kreeger and Hamilton buildings were temporarily relocated as a safety precaution. The University is not aware of any government requests to test the air quality in these buildings. If any member of the RAB has documentation or other knowledge of a request, we would appreciate receiving this information, including which government agency requested the test, so we can look into the matter.

Updates for the Campus Community. The University is committed to keeping students, faculty, and staff fully informed about the Army Corps of Engineers project. The University sends out regular communications and updates to the campus community via email. These campus communications are posted on a web page dedicated to the project at, which is accessible to anyone. The University also has set up an information line dedicated to the project (202-885-2020). Additionally, AU officials have held and continue to hold meetings with various campus groups, including parents of the children at the Child Development Center, grounds and maintenance staff, athletes, student government representatives, and faculty members. AU officials have also spoken with a number of reporters and writers about the project for several campus publications.

AU Radio Tower. A misconception exists regarding the materiel discovered during the construction of the AU radio tower. During World War II, the Navy Bomb Disposal School used the University for training purposes, which involved simulating bomb disposal techniques using inert materiel. It is likely that the harmless materiel was left over from the Navy training during WWII, not WWI, given the location of where it was found during the construction of the campus radio tower.

AU is committed to providing information about the ongoing Corps of Engineers activities on campus and to working with the RAB to ensure a safe and healthy community. If you have additional questions regarding historical information about the Corps' project, please feel free to contact me directly at (202) 885-2121. Professor Girard will continue to serve on the RAB as AU's representative to assist in moving the cleanup process along. Professor Girard is lending his time as a service to the community and the university, because of his professional knowledge as a chemist. He is a knowledgeable asset for the RAB.