Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, February 16, 2019

Video: Army Corp of Engineers demolishes AU-owned house in Spring Valley

Video by Willa Hine, Multimedia Editor

The bricks finally fell at 4825 Glenbrook Rd. Nov. 29, as the Army Corps of Engineers began demolition of the vacated residence that sits on top of a formerly used World War I defense site

The demolition will take approximately two weeks, after which the Corps will begin site cleanup, according to the Corps. Army officials estimate more chemicals will be found at the center of the site, including the basement of the house, but do not expect to find munitions.

“I don’t think we’re gonna find anything. I think we’ve gotten the majority of the stuff out,” Dan Noble, Army Corps of Engineers project manager, said. “I know we’ll find more in the front of the house.”

Across the street, some residents looked on the demolition with relief, others with skepticism. In the house directly opposite from the site, resident Christine Dietrich stood with Harold G. Bailey, Jr., her lawyer. Dietrich voiced concerns during two restoration advisory board meetings about the safety and health of her family, especially her two children, during the cleanup and demolition. She requested the Army Corps relocate her during the cleanup, but the Corps refused twice.

In the case of an accident, the Corps had provided a 742-foot safety zone surrounding the house. However, the perimeter decreased to 194 feet, based on the probability of finding chemicals rather than munitions.

The Corps already briefed some residents living within the zone, like Dietrich, on what to do in the case of an accident. Dietrich was instructed Nov. 28 on the voluntary “shelter in place” program, in which residents remain inside their homes during an accident.

The 194-foot safety zone restricts the areas affecting AU’s campus to only Watkins building, according to Army officials.

“I always knew this [demolition] was going to happen at ‘The Hole of Hades,’” Bailey said, referring to the house. “My daughter used to run at the track behind here. She would say, ‘I hope it doesn’t blow up while I’m running.’”

AU President Neil Kerwin, who lives next to 4825 Glenbrook Rd., will remain at his home during the demolition and cleanup.

“We’ve already been through this kind of training before in the past,” Kerwin said, referring to the shelter in place briefing.

“We’re confident,” he said, “they’ve already demolished most of the house from what I’ve seen so far.”

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