Housing Complex

Asbestos, Lead, Petroleum Complicate Walter Reed Development

Watch out for asbestos!

The detailed Final Reuse Plan for Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been released, and it has all sorts of pictures and facts about what will happen to the 62 acres under redevelopment, which are worth a read if you're impacted. But one of the bigger X factors, from the perspective of the District and the entities that will be using any of the buildings that are either to be demolished or renovated, is the amount of contamination they'll have to deal with.

The accounting: The Army has identified asbestos in seven buildings, assumes the presence of lead-based paint in any building constructed before 1978, and has found petroleum and PCBs in soil samples, most notably the southwest quadrant of the property. Contamination is particularly bad around the historically-designated central heating plant, known as Building 15, which the plan identifies as an "attractive retail destination." Plus, two 400,000-gallon underground storage tanks, which have been used to hold heating oil, will have to be removed. "The cost could possibly be significant," the report reads.

Of course, nasty chemicals come with the territory in the adaptive re-use of old buildings. But from the sound of it, the full scope of nastiness at Walter Reed hasn't been conclusively determined, and the Army washes its hands of responsibility for dealing with any problems as soon as the land transfer occurs. Buyer beware!

  • Rick Mangus

    Sounds like a EPA Superfund site!

  • Rick Mangus

    I coundn't think of the name at first but we can call Walter Reed, Love Canal II!

  • Frank Anastasi

    No that shouldn't be the case at all. These are things you'd have in any facility of this vintage. They should be able to be cleaned up using standard available techniques. It could be costly, though. The first thing will be to determine what contaminants are where exactly and then look at options to either remove them or prevent future users from exposure to them. It's done all the time - just a process that has to be followed.

  • Kent Slowinski

    In addition to the usual contamination, the Walter Reed site also has waste from the Disease Lab and a nuclear reactor. The Army is notorious for not keeping detailed records of how they dispose of hazardous waste.

    Look at what happened at the American University Experiment Station during World War I. In Spring Valley, the Army Corps has spent more than $200 million over the past 18 years cleaning up contamination from the US Chemical Warfare Service.

    Just last month at Walter Reed, a mis-delivered package of radioactive material went missing and sat unprotected next to someone's desk for more than 24 hours.

    The Army might be giving the Walter Reed land to the District, but due to the contamination, it comes at a great cost.

  • Marcus Roberts

    Asbestos should not be in homes, buildings, etc.! It was in all the US ships for a long time, and it made the guys who built the ships, AND the sailors who worked on the ships, really sick. http://www.brooklyn-navy-yard.com/

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