Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, January 17, 2019

Army Corps of Engineers unearths five more bottlenecks near AU

The Army Corps of Engineers recovered five more broken glass bottlenecks at its 4825 Glenbrook Rd. investigation, bringing the total to eight bottlenecks found in the last month, according to the Corps’ Spring Valley project manager Dan Noble.

It still remains unclear whether the bottlenecks indicate the nearby presence of a larger munitions cache known as the “Sgt. Maurer burial pit.”

On Jan. 25, the discovery of three broken glass bottlenecks at the property adjacent to the AU president’s residence sparked speculation among community members and in the Northwest Current that the long sought-after cache had finally been located.

In response to the speculation, Noble released a memo on Feb. 2 stating that the Corps is never going to know whether they have located the “Maurer pit.”

“At this time, the only way I would feel comfortable calling any pit the ‘Maurer pit’ is if we find Sgt. Maurer’s dog tags in the pit,” the memo stated. “What we don’t know — and no one will ever be able to know — is whether these containers are absolutely the ones seen in the photo ... We have NOT, at this time, located another disposal pit.”

But at Feb. 16 Restoration Advisory Board meeting, Noble said the bottlenecks recovered looked “remarkably similar” to the bottles depicted in a 1918 photo with Army Sergeant C. W. Maurer standing amid approximately 30 glass jugs.

The photo also showed what appeared to be metal drums and a pile of white powder, according to Noble.

The Corps has recovered metal drums at its “Pit 3” investigation in the past. Also at the RAB meeting, the Corps showed photos of the current investigation, which revealed a white substance in the soil where workers found the broken bottlenecks.

“This is consistent with what you see in that photo,” Noble said. “We see the white powder in the photo, and we see white powder here in the ground.”

Kent Slowinski, a former RAB member and Spring Valley resident, said the Corps needs to contact the workers who built the house where the bottlenecks were found.

While the house was still under construction, workers uncovered laboratory glassware related to the AU Experimental Station but reburied it in an undisclosed location on the property.

“The Corps has admitted that the burial pit was disturbed when they built the house,” Slowinski said. “The Corps realized that when the workers built the house, they scattered AUES items around the site.”

In 1917, AU offered its grounds and buildings to the military for use as a large-scale chemical warfare research center. The land used included 90 acres of university property and 500 acres of privately owned farmland adjacent to AU, The Eagle previously reported.

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