This update for the AU community is the latest in a series of communications regarding the activities of the Army Corps of Engineers on our campus. This year, the Army Corps’ environmental investigation and cleanup activities has focused on “Lot 18,” behind the Hamilton, Kreeger, Rockwood, Public Safety, and Financial Aid buildings. The Corps is exploring Lot 18, in coordination with the D.C. Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to identify and remove any material related to the Army’s World War I testing of munitions and warfare agents in Spring Valley.
The operations were temporarily suspended on August 16 until the Army Corps could procure additional funding via the federal budgeting process. With additional funding now in place, the Corps will resume operations. Contractors and Corps members have begun setting up equipment and are conducting preparatory testing, with cleanup activities expected to resume fully the week of November 15.
As was done over the summer, on the first Friday of each month, the Corps will conduct a one-minute siren test that would be activated in the event of an excavation emergency. In an actual emergency, the siren “wail” would last up to three minutes and be repeated every 15 minutes. Occupants of those buildings adjacent to the work site have been given special instructions regarding safety measures.
The initial excavation done this past summer revealed elevated levels of lead in the soil. The soil was removed, properly contained and transported from campus for disposal. This concentration of lead in the soil had not previously been found during the Corps’ activities in Spring Valley, and most likely indicates World War I testing origins. The soil did not pose any health risk to the campus; any potential effect to health would be through ingestion, or by consuming multiple tablespoons of the soil over an extended period of time.
The university’s top priority is always the health and safety of the entire campus community. The university continues to closely monitor the Corps’ progress, and AU’s independent expert, Dr. Paul Chrostowski, continues to review the Corps’ work and make appropriate recommendations. With input from EPA, D.C. Health and the University, the Army Corps is taking reasonable safety precautions. As a result, we are confident that the health and well-being of the campus community is protected during this activity. Please visit http://www.american.edu/usace/ for previous updates, or call 202-885-2020 if you have specific questions about the Corps’ project at AU.