2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 5 Sep 2003 15:35:17 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] ACOE detects a small amount of Lewisite at a Spring Valley site
News Release
Release No. 03-09
Contact: Doug Garman
For Release: September 3, 2003
Phone: 410-962-2809

Army Corps of Engineers detects a small amount of Lewisite at a Spring
Valley site

Baltimore - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials announced today that
a small amount of Lewisite, a World War I chemical warfare agent, was
detected in a sealed glass container recovered during the excavation of
a debris field known as Lot 18 in the Spring Valley neighborhood of
northwest Washington, D.C.

Laboratory analysis of the contents in the glass container received Aug.
28 from the
Edgewood Chemical Biological Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.,
confirmed the presence of a solution containing approximately 0.3
percent Lewisite. Lot 18 is a debris field located in the southwestern
portion of the American University campus and adjacent to several
properties along Rockwood Parkway. The total volume of liquid in this
container was 6 milliliters, or approximately one tablespoon.

A conservative mathematical dispersion model run by the Corps, based on
6 milliliters, 100 percent Lewisite solution, indicated that under worst
case conditions, had the materiel been released, there would be no
effect on anyone beyond a distance of one meter. At all times, the
liquid was contained within the sealed glass container. No health or
safety incidents were reported by workers during their work at this

_From November 2002 to May 2003, excavation of this debris field resulted
in the recovery of several scrap ordnance items, broken and intact
glassware and residential-type trash dating from 1900 to the 1950s. Each
of the recovered items was evaluated and cataloged by a Corps of
Engineers’ safety officer as well as a certified archeologist. On-site
evaluation identified three glassware containers as intact, sealed and
requiring further analysis. Each of these items was properly packaged
and placed in a secure storage area on federal property to await the
proper final disposition. The other two recovered glass containers
tested negative for chemical warfare agent and contained mixtures of
solid organic compounds.

The Corps will employ more stringent safety procedures as an added
measure of safety during the remainder of this work. Lot 18 was
characterized originally as a low-probability area for encountering
World War I-era chemical warfare materiel based on a preliminary risk
assessment conducted prior to beginning work. Based on a review of field
records and the results of laboratory tests confirming the presence of
Lewisite, Corps officials have recharacterized the site as a
high-probability area for encountering chemical warfare materiel.
Although no health or safety incidents were reported during the work,
Corps officials believe this re-characterization of the site is prudent
given what has been found.

“The more protective site designation announced today, and the
implementation of new procedures, will further ensure the safety of
local residents and students as we continue work on this site,” said
Gary Schilling, Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the Spring
Valley investigation.

Corps officials add that the exact type of procedures to be implemented
for future work is currently being evaluated. The plan for resuming Lot
18 work will be presented to the public prior to beginning intrusive
activities in late 2003 or early 2004.

Military personnel used portions of the Spring Valley neighborhood from
1917 to 1919 to conduct research and testing on World War I chemical
warfare materiel as part of their work at the former American University
Experiment Station.


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