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Army Corps of Engineers, Project Update | Archive

September 17, 2002

 TO:  Campus Community
 FROM:  Benjamin Ladner, President
 SUBJECT:  Army Corps of Engineers Project Update

For nearly two years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting environmental investigations and cleanup activities on our campus related to the Army’s World War I testing of munitions and warfare agents in Northwest Washington. This memo brings the campus community up to date on the Corps’ progress.

Child Development Center and Intramural Fields. According to the most recent information from the Army Corps, work on the Child Development Center grounds and the Intramural Fields is in its final stages. Present projections are for the Army to be finished with both these sites by the end of the fall semester.

The Corps began excavating and replacing the soil on the CDC grounds a year ago. When a final spot near the CDC sidewalk is remediated, the Army’s work on the CDC grounds will be completed. Soil with arsenic readings above the 20 parts per million (ppm) cleanup standard is being removed and replaced with clean soil. As always, the Corps is using dust control measures and air monitors to check air quality.

The CDC program will continue to operate in its temporary location in Leonard Hall until the Corps has completed its work. In addition to cleaning and re-painting the CDC building, the D.C. Department of Health must inspect and re-license the Center for use before the program can be moved back.

As follow up to the geophysical work done last spring, the Corps will now begin investigating metal items found during the survey of these areas. Some metals were located beneath the surface, but that does not mean they are related to World War I activities. The geophysical equipment detects any metal item, whether a soft drink can or a hubcap, but cannot precisely identify the item. The follow-up excavation will be done in the next few weeks. Army Corps ordnance experts will be on site to identify metal objects as they are uncovered. Following normal protocols for this kind of work, the Corps will use covered containment structures as an added safety measure. If ordnance is found, it will be placed in a secure container and safely removed from campus for evaluation and disposal. We will continue to work with the Corps to ensure that all appropriate safety measures are taken to protect the campus community.

Other Areas on Campus. In August, the Corps excavated two small areas on the Nebraska Avenue side of the School of International Service and Hurst buildings. Arsenic in the soil at these locations was a few feet underground and at levels of less than 30 ppm, but this soil has been removed and replaced.

As announced earlier, a very small area near McDowell and Hughes Halls will also require soil excavation. The majority of sample results in this area showed arsenic levels just above the 20 ppm range with one anomalous reading of 74.5 ppm. According to Dr. Paul Chrostowski, the University’s environmental health sciences consultant, the levels present are completely safe for normal use (walking or sitting on the grass). However, the University has prohibited any activities that could disturb the soil in this area as an added safety precaution. We are working with the Corps to schedule excavation of this area, and we will inform the campus community before the work begins.

President’s Residence. Investigations at the President’s Residence have indicated some metal objects in the ground and some elevated levels of arsenic. The University is working with the Corps, the D.C. Health Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on appropriate next steps. Meanwhile, Mrs. Ladner and I are satisfied that there is no danger and we continue to live in the Residence during these activities.

Contact Information. Throughout this entire operation, the University’s first priority has been the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and other members of the AU community. We are committed to keeping you fully informed about the Corps’ activities on our campus. There is an information line (202-885-2020) that you can call if you have questions. This memo and all others regarding the Corps’ activities on campus are posted on the AU website dedicated to this project, I encourage all members of the community to read past memos on the project to be fully informed. For information about the Corps’ information line and document repositories, visit their website at