Groundwater testing due near toxic D.C. house

Neal Augenstein,

WASHINGTON – Weeks before the razing of a home built atop a former chemical weapons dumping ground, scientists will test groundwater in a nearby well to confirm elevated levels of arsenic and perchlorate.

Sampling begins this week in a well in the 4800 block of Glenbrook Road NW in the Spring Valley section of D.C.

After years of concern, and lawsuits, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined earlier this year to remove the home at 4825 Glenbrook Road. The two-story brick home remains abandoned among multimillion dollar houses in the neighborhood adjacent to American University.

“Testing from this spring found arsenic and perchlorate above acceptable Environmental Protection Agency levels,” says Andrea Takash, public affairs spokesman with the Army Corps of Engineers.

In more than a decade since the realization that several homes were built above a World War I weapons burial pit, the Army Corps has found more than 500 munition items, 400 pounds of laboratory glassware and more than 100 tons of contaminated soil on the property.

“It’s important to reinforce groundwater is not the drinking water source for the Spring Valley community,” says Takash.

“All residents of Spring Valley have water supplied by the Washington Aqueduct. Ninety-five percent of the pipes are located above groundwater level. And there is so much pressure inside these pipes, nothing can filter into them,” says Takash.

Groundwater is tested deep below the surface in bedrock.

This round of testing in the affected well will monitor depth intervals between 35 and 160 feet below ground surface.

“We’ve installed 52 wells in the neighborhood, to get a wide overview of groundwater in the neighborhood,” says Takash.

Authorities at the nearby Washington Aqueduct, which processes drinking water for Washington, D.C., Arlington, the City of Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax County are “following the Spring Valley remediation efforts with interest.”

“The issue is whether groundwater will affect our Dalecarlia Reservoir,” says Patricia Gamby, deputy general manager with the Aqueduct, which is owned and operated by the Army Corps.

“We routinely monitor for arsenic and perchlorate in the reservoir as well as in the finished water,” says Gamby. “We occasionally get detectable levels of both contaminants in the reservoir, but the levels are generally very low.”

“Of course, we also test the finished water after treatment too, and have never had unacceptable levels,” said Gamby.

Demolition of the home is planned for August.

The Army Corps of Engineers has released its Demolition and Disposal Plan to describe how the house will be removed and how debris will be handled.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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