The ongoing recovery of arsenic and chemical weapons is coming to a close, according to a report by the Army Corps of Engineers on Aug. 5.
The Corps is now completing the replacement of soil in the intramural field but the search will continue in an area of campus known as Lot 18. Lot 18 contains the Financial Aid Building, part of Public Safety and a house on Rockwood Parkway owned by the University.
The announcement caps a two and a half year search for remnants of the weapons built during World War I when the U.S. Army used the campus for research and testing. Several areas on campus and in the surrounding area were sampled for levels of the weapons, including arsenic and toxic soil, which has been removed.
AU’s Intramural Field and the nearby Child Development Center grounds contained the largest amount of toxic soil and the Army Corps of Engineers has been working extensively to clean up the weapons.
The Athletics Department and CDC are now awaiting word from the Army Corps in order to begin working on the sites to make them useable again. Athletics is currently looking into the possibility of synthetic grass such as AstroTurf to cover the field that students have nicknamed “Arsenic Field.’
“Just because [the Army Corps of Engineers] is done doesn’t mean [the field] will be in a playable position,” Ed McLaughlin, associate athletic director for facilities, said.
Once the area is returned to the campus, both Athletics and the CDC plan to review the properties before returning to full use. The CDC, currently housed in Leonard Hall, is not planning to return to their building until the spring according to Todd Sedmak, AU’s’ media relations director.
“Once the Army Corps is finished, then we have to work with D.C. officials before the building can reopen,” Sedmak said.
With the return and reopening of the intramural field, all of AU’s outdoor sports will be using the field, in addition to any intramural sports.
“We are really going to make an effort to make this [field] as used as possible,” McLaughlin said. “It will be in use morning, noon and afternoon, since we have no lights.”
Students seemed positive about the news that the field may be reopening soon and the prospect of synthetic grass.
“It’s a good thing [the Army Corps of Engineers] is finally finishing,” sophomore Jessie Bourland said. “As long as we still have a field, [synthetic grass] is better than nothing.’
The Army Corps of Engineers noted in their report that over 7,500 tons of contaminated soils have been removed from the area. The Army Corps is planning
to have all backfilling and restoration operations completed by the end of August. Original estimates gave a completion date of mid-July but summer rains slowed the process, according to the Army Corps.