Aug. 3, 2001
Officials from the District of Columbia Department of Health have asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review its archival information about chemical weapons development done at The Catholic University of America in 1918.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to cooperate with D.C. health investigators and work in close collaboration with CUA officials. However, Army Corps officials issued a statement on Aug. 2, 2001 reaffirming their 1995 conclusion that there was no evidence to suggest that munitions or chemical containers are located on or around the campus grounds.
“To date, the Corps has found no evidence which indicates that a public health or safety hazard related to chemical warfare materials exists at Catholic University,” said John Butler, the Formerly Used Defense Sites program manager at the Army Corps’ Baltimore district office.
The D.C. Department of Health agreed with Mr. Butler’s assessment, according to a statement sent to the university on Aug. 3.
“At this point, there is no evidence indicating an immediate health risk at Catholic University,” said Ted Gordon, chief operating officer for the D.C. Department of Health.
The D.C. Department of Health has requested that the Army Corps of Engineers perform further archival review of records relating to land use at CUA in the vicinity of Maloney Hall. Pending the outcome of that review, further steps may or may not be required, Mr. Gordon said.
Officials at the health department’s Bureau of Hazardous Materials and Toxic Substances have not requested a geophysical testing of land in the area, Mr. Gordon confirmed.
On Aug. 1, Congresswomen Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Constance A. Morella (R-Md.) issued a letter requesting a General Accounting Office investigation of the role, authority and responsibility of various federal agencies in the burial of chemical munitions in the Spring Valley neighborhood, the location of an American University research site used by wartime researchers during World War I. A small satellite lab of the AU research unit was established at Catholic University in 1917.
CUA participated in the United States war effort until the lab was officially closed on Jan. 1, 1919, offering facilities in Maloney Hall for a unit of chemists to conduct laboratory research. External investigations to date have concluded that their experiments were limited to bench work and did not include fieldtesting on the CUA campus.
D.C. health officials, with the support of Del. Norton and Rep. Morella, are requesting the archival review as they reevaluate Army Corps of Engineers reports on World War I munitions and chemical weapons found at Spring Valley, a 661-acre site in Northwest Washington, D.C. After going through interviews conducted by the Corps from 1993 through 1995, D.C. health investigators decided to reevaluate anecdotal information about chemical weapons developed at other sites in the area, including Catholic University.
Del. Norton has said none of the other sites in the District should be “considered another Spring Valley.” Officials from both the Army Corps of Engineers and D.C. Department of Health agree that references to CUA and the Spring Valley situation would be “comparing apples to oranges.”
Army Corps officials said they hoped to initiate their review of archival records, in cooperation with D.C. Department of Health and CUA officials, between October and December of this year.
For more information, contact Chris Harrison in the CUA Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-6976.
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