As the Army Corps of Engineers project continues into the new year, I would like to provide an overview of the progress made during fall semester and the projected next steps. We will issue additional updates throughout the semester to keep the campus fully informed of Army Corps activities as they affect American University. We will continue to post all campus communications on the AU website dedicated to this project, www.american.edu/usace, which also contains links to other sources of information.
We appreciate the patience and cooperation of everyone on campus during the Army Corps activities over the past year. We will continue to work with the Army to ensure that they finish their work on campus thoroughly and in a timely fashion. Throughout this project, the safety and well being of our campus community continues to be our central concern.
Child Development Center -- The Corps has completed the excavation of the Child Development Center (CDC). Restoration work continues and new playground equipment will be installed. The in-depth analysis of soil sampling results of more than 200 compounds tested at the CDC (conducted by our environmental health sciences consultant, Dr. Paul Chrostowski), confirmed that the overwhelming majority were at levels far below those of concern. The exceptions were arsenic, as we were aware, and some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are common in our environment due to emissions from cars and other activities that involve combustion. Soil with elevated levels of compounds was replaced totally. Arsenic testing of CDC children and staff, rugby players, and grounds and maintenance workers conducted in the spring found no elevated levels of arsenic in anyone. Based on the results of the soil sampling and arsenic testing of people, Dr. Chrostowski has advised that no further medical testing or medical monitoring is necessary.
Intramural Fields -- The Corps plans to begin excavation of the intramural fields during spring semester. EPA and D.C. Health are still evaluating the extent of the excavation needed, although we expect it to affect significant portions of the field. The areas closest to the CDC will be completed first.
Remainder of Campus -- The Corps completed soil sampling on the rest of the campus, except for three lots that were fenced off due to construction on the Arts and Sciences building; those lots will be sampled. Only two lots of those completed required additional grid sampling because of arsenic results higher than 12.6 ppm, the level at which the Corps conducts further sampling. However, those two lots contained only 18.5 ppm and 13.8 ppm. The Corps conducted the grid sampling in mid-January, and we will keep the campus informed when the test results are available.
President’s Residence -- Of the more than 50 soil samples taken at the President’s Residence, only one was above the EPA’s arsenic removal standard of 43 ppm. The University is awaiting recommendations from the Corps and their partners, the EPA, and the D.C. Department of Health on the remediation of the property. Nancy and I continue to live in the residence during these activities.
Reeves Soccer Field – In October, the University received good news on the soil sampling results for Reeves Field, as expected. All samples showed arsenic within the range of naturally occurring background levels for the area, which the EPA found to range from
3 ppm to 18 ppm. A single soil sample on the soccer field showed 17.5 ppm and was located a depth of one foot below the surface and sod. Dr. Chrostowski indicates that the soccer field has been and continues to be safe for use.
Lawn Mower and Leaf Blower Tests – We received good news on the results from lawn mower and leaf blower tests conducted in August. The tests were done to determine whether grounds and maintenance workers could be exposed to elevated levels of arsenic in the dust generated from maintenance activities. The tests found no arsenic in the air during mowing and leaf blowing activities and that the amount of dust generated is below safety levels established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). As a result of these findings in addition to the bio-monitoring for arsenic and other studies conducted by Dr. Chrostowski, the University suspended the additional safety measures that had been put in place for grounds and maintenance workers as a precaution.
The University will continue to keep the campus community informed as activities progress during the year. If you have any questions regarding the Corps of Engineers project at AU, please call the information line at (202) 885-2020.