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Army Corps of Engineers, Project Update | Archive

February 16, 2001

Campus Community
FROM: Benjamin Ladner, President
SUBJECT: Update on Army Corps Activities and Test Results


As a continuing update on what we are finding from the Army Corps of Engineers' soil testing project on our campus, I would like to inform you of the latest results of additional tests performed behind the Hamilton Building.

The Corps conducted 10 additional soil-sample tests after their initial work at the site. We reported earlier that test results revealed that levels of arsenic were within normal ranges, which we were led to believe, should be our primary concern. Test results received this week, however, indicate that two samples had an elevated level of arsenic and another sample had elevated levels of lead and mercury. The lead level was 1460 parts-per-million (ppm), which is close to the level at which the EPA would require action. The mercury level was 58.8 ppm, which is above EPA's risk-based residential cleanup level of 23 ppm. The arsenic levels were 24 ppm and 136 ppm, which are above the normal background level of 13 ppm and one of which is above EPA's removal action level of 43 ppm. The significance of these detections is being evaluated by the University.

An early explanation attributed these elevated levels to leakage from an old automobile battery that had been buried there for many years. This now seems to be less conclusive, though the Army Corps continues to believe there is no immediate risk. These chemicals were found at the bottom of the Small Disposal Area excavation and would not likely have been contacted by individuals in the past.

Much as it tries our patience, the step-by-step process for continuing to clarify what is in the soil and what risks are associated with what is there is quite lengthy. Nevertheless, we are pushing to test, obtain test results, and interpret meanings as quickly as possible. I can assure you that we have been committed and will continue to take every precaution to safeguard the health of the entire AU community in light of the results of this project. As we get further information and analysis, we will inform the community of our findings, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to provide for the community's overall safety.