Army’s Spring Valley cleanup extends to AU site

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The Army Corps of Engineers demolished the home at 4825 Glenbrook Road NW in 2012 to investigate the property for soil contamination and buried munitions. (Brady Holt/The Current/November 2012)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its investigation of munitions-related contamination in the Spring Valley area, including the site of American University’s recently demolished Public Safety Building.

The small 1960s building was located on the south end of campus near Rockwood Parkway NW, where the Army conducted chemical weapons testing during the World War I era. The Army Corps has been cleaning up areas of the campus and dozens of nearby homes for 25 years.

Brenda Barber, an Army Corps project manager, provided a community update on the cleanup progress at the July 11 meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board.  The Army will look for buried munitions and contaminated soil at the Public Safety Building site and will remove any hazards it finds. The site will then be turned back over to the university, probably in early 2018.

Meanwhile, 93 Spring Valley residential properties still need to be investigated for possible hazards, Barber said, and owners of 18 of the properties have already made arrangements with the Army. The investigations require the removal of gardens and other small plants, but major excavation takes place only when the Army’s machinery detects a buried hazard. The Army restores properties to their original condition after confirming that no questionable material remains.

The Army is also working on one particularly contaminated property — 4825 Glenbrook Road NW, where a home was removed to accommodate an investigation and soil removal. Workers are hand-digging near the property line with 4835 Glenbrook and removing sections of a wall there that came into contact with contaminated soil. Potentially dangerous debris and the proximity of utility lines along the property line have slowed the 4825 cleanup by six to eight months.