WWI munitions cleanup on hold at AU president’s home
By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOP radio news site
WASHINGTON — The cleanup of a World War I chemical weapons testing site is on hold for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares to drill holes in the basement of the American University president’s official residence, looking for evidence of discarded munitions.
More than five years after the house at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. NW, was removed, and as the cleanup of toxic munitions neared completion, the Army Corps will soon bore approximately 15 2-inch holes through the basement foundation, and in the yard and back patio of 4835 Glenbrook Rd.
As previously reported by WTOP, on Aug. 9, workers who were digging by hand experienced eye irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting — symptoms associated with proximity to low levels of chemical agents. The workers were briefly hospitalized, but released the same day.
The discovery was made along the property line between the cleanup site and the home at 4835 Glenbrook Rd., in the Spring Valley neighborhood. Digging was paused after the incident, and has not resumed.
Army Corps. officials have said testing over the years of soil at 4385 found no evidence of carcinogenic or other dangerous substances on the property.
However, in a Sept. meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board, project manager Brenda Barber said recent testing has found low levels of Mustard and Lewisite, which were used in World War I chemical weapons. The colorless and odorless compounds can cause blistering and lung irritation.
Barber said the test bores will be done the week of Dec. 4.
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