2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 30 Jul 2002 00:18:37 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Spring Valley GAO Report
In June, 2002, the General Accounting Office released its report on the
Spring Valley neighborhood (Washington, DC) military cleanup.
"Environmental Contamination: Many Uncertainties Affect the Progress of
the Spring Valley Cleanup," GAO-02-556, may be downloaded from

GAO reports that the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for
cleaning up the area as a formerly used defense site (FUDS), had spent
$50 million on the project through the end of fiscal year 2001. It
anticipates spending over $72 million more over the next five years to
complete the job. The annual national FUDS cleanup budget ranges from
about $200 to $230 million per year. GAO observes:

"It is unclear at this time how long the Corps will be able to
accommodate the increasing funding needs at Spring Valley because
funding the cleanup at the site is currently adversely affecting the
pace and progress of cleanups at the approximately 2,800 other formerly
used defense sites presently known to require remediation. Consequently,
any significant increases in the costs of completing the Spring Valley
cleanup, or decreases in the amount of available funding, would likely
require the Corps to extend the completion date further into the future."

Site of the American University Experiment Station, a chemical warfare
test site during World War I, Spring Valley now contains Sibley
Hospital, 27 embassy properties, several commercial properties, and
about 1200 of the District's most expensive homes. GAO reminds us, "The
Army concluded in 1986 and again in 1996 that it had not found any
evidence of large-scale burials of hazards remaining at Spring Valley,"
but it put off its analysis of the Corps' method of declaring projects
compete or unnecessary. That report is scheduled for publication later
this summer.

On-site hazards today include buried ordnance, containers of chemical
warfare agents, and arsenic contaminated soil. GAO reports, "According
to the U.S. Army, Spring Valley is the only known FUDS where chemical
agents were tested in what became a well-established residential
neighborhood at the heart of a large metropolitan area." The removal of
chemical warfare agent and unexploded ordnance is treated as a higher
priority than most soil remediation, since the risk is more acute.

The three principal government agencies responsible for the cleanup -
the Army Corps, U.S. EPA, and the District of Columbia Department of
Health - have formed a partnership to manage investigations and cleanup.
According to GAO, the partners have negotiated a cleanup goal - that is,
the allowable concentration in soil - for arsenic. That goal is expected
to be finalized after a DC-sponsored Scientific Advisory Panel reviews
the evidence.

GAO concludes, "Uncertainties will continue to affect the progress of
the Spring Valley cleanup. The unknowns are many: the potential that
as-yet undiscovered hazards will come to light ...; the extent of soil
removal or cleanup that will be needed...; and the actual availability
of funding ..."

The report also contains a list of 44 other contaminated federal
properties in the DC area, including about 20 "civil war fortifications."


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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