Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ft. Reno Closed Due to Contamination

NBC 4 is reporting the closure of Ft. Reno due to high levels of arsenic in the soil.

From their website:

Fort Reno Park is closed to the public after high levels of arsenic were reported, according to the National Park Service.

U.S. Geological Survey satellite imaging reports discovered the arsenic. The reports were part of USGS's ongoing work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Spring Valley neighborhood in Northwest.

The levels of arsenic found in the soil exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's safety threshold.

At about 6 a.m. Wednesday, snow fencing was set up around the park, which is bounded by Fessenden, Chesapeake and 41st streets and Nebraska Avenue.

Groups with permits to use the Fort Reno playing fields have been notified of the closure.

The National Park Service, EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, D.C. Department of Health and D.C. Public Schools are working together to determine any possible public risk and discussing courses of action.

National Park Service officials said they had no reason to suspect the high levels of arsenic and therefore did not conduct their own soil sampling or testing.


Here is the text of the information sheet released by the District
Department of the Environment and the Mayor on the situation at Fort Reno:


On May 14th, the National Park Service issued a release stating that arsenic concentrations had been discovered at Fort Reno park and that the park would be closed until further testing was conducted. Upon this release, the District Department of the Environment was designated as the lead agency in coordinating the District's response.
Mayor Adrian Fenty held a press conference at the scene on May 14th in order to inform residents of the District's planned efforts.


District Department of the Environment: Lead agency in the District's response.
National Park Service: Oversees Fort Reno park. US EPA: Conducting further soil sample analysis. US Army Corps of Engineers: Providing support. District Fire/EMS and Police Departments: First-responders. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency: First-responders. Department of Health: Advising as to any potential adverse health impacts. District of Columbia Public Schools: Determining any potential impact
on Wilson High School and Deal Junior High School, which are adjacent
to Fort Reno.


The USGS previously conducted satellite imagery in order to illustrate the geographic position of arsenic concentrations, which indicated Fort Reno park as an affected site. Initial sample testing was conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device. The testing preliminarily revealed levels of arsenic above EPA's recommended action levels (which, depending upon future use of the property could range from .4 to 40 parts per million in soil). In response, the National Park Service has erected snow fencing around the site in order to prevent any potential exposure until further testing is complete.


Fort Reno park will stay closed until testing is complete in 7-10 days. Since Fort Reno park is federal property, EPA Region 3 has assigned an on-scene coordinator to collect samples for lab analysis.

Residents who have vegetables from the Fort Reno park's gardens are advised to stop consumption until test results are announced. For residents who have been consuming these vegetables recently, if precautionary measures are needed, information will be forthcoming.

DCWASA and the Army Corps regularly test arsenic levels within the water reservoir under Fort Reno park. As an additional precaution, they will conduct a test specifically for arsenic in order to verify their previous results .

Satellite imagery also indicated potential contamination at the track at Wilson High School.

Since the new Wilson HS track was constructed subsequent to the satellite imagery, arsenic contamination has either been remediated or contained and does not pose a threat. However, student access to soil berms adjacent to the track will be closed off until monitoring is undertaken.

DDOE will consult with EPA and the National Park Service in order to determine if testing is needed at additional properties and what, if any, closures or remediation actions should follow.


Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that when present in high concentrations can produce toxic effects or an increase in cancer risk. It is most commonly used in pesticides and wood preservation, although previously identified cases of arsenic in the District were due to historical military uses. The primary exposure route associated with arsenic in soil is ingestion. Compared with the ingestion route, inhalation or dermal exposure pose only marginal risks when arsenic is found in soil. There is minimal risk from brief exposure, unless a high quantity of arsenic is directly ingested. The primary health concern associated with arsenic exposure is cancer. However, it can produce non-cancer health effects such as gastrointestinal impacts, headaches, and cardiovascular impacts. (EPA)

1 comment:

Heltzooor said...

Interesting. Might the arsenic have something to do with the problems over in Spring Valley?