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National Park Service Will Reopen Fort Reno Park

Thursday, May 29, 2008

(Washington, DC) – Scientifically verified soil test results received from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with recommendations from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) indicate that Fort Reno Park arsenic levels are at background levels expected for the area and below levels of health concern. As a result, the National Park Service (NPS) has decided to re-open Fort Reno Park as of today. 

The NPS’ process for arriving at this decision is consistent with NPS standard protocol for seeking public health guidance. The NPS began removal of the snow fencing used to close Fort Reno Park on Wednesday, May 28.

However, in the course of this recent additional testing by EPA to validate arsenic levels in Fort Reno Park, elevated levels of lead were found in one location inside of Fort Reno Park, within a 10-by- 15-foot oval-shaped section in the northwest corner of the 33-acre park.

The EPA informed the NPS and the District of Columbia Department of the Environment of the new, preliminary lead findings on Sunday, May 25.  The area of lead contamination is fully contained within Fort Reno Park and was already closed to public access and not available to any visitors since the lead contamination information was learned. New, additional testing of this portion of Fort Reno Park will be required and until those new definitive tests are completed and verified, the 10-by-15-foot section of Fort Reno Park will continue to be closed to the public. The NPS, in consultation with the EPA, will begin remediation of the 10-by-15-foot section of the park, which would involve removal of all contaminated soil.

The 10-by- 15-foot section of Fort Reno Park is an area that has grass and vegetation on it and is not an area that is frequented by recreational users of the park. It is believed the lead is contained within this section of the park. The federal public health agency reviewing the information from this park (ATSDR) does not believe it is likely that health effects could have occurred from past exposures to this area of the park. However, families are welcome to discuss any health concerns they have about this issue directly with their family physicians, or with pediatricians specializing in environmental health. 

The MidAtlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment’s website is www.health-e-kids.org; they may be contacted during regular during business hours at [email protected] or (202) 994-1166.

The ATSDR does not recommend any testing for pets that have frequented this park. However, as a service, pet owners may chose to discuss any concerns about their pets and environmental exposure with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and its Animal Poison Control Center toll free at (888) 426-4435. There is a fee for this service.  The number is operational 24-hours per day.

The NPS will continue to provide the public with updates regarding access status for Fort Reno Park as well as remediation, as it becomes available.  

Background on Arsenic Investigations at the Park

The NPS’ closure of Fort Reno Park was prompted by soil-sample analysis conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) at six sites at Fort Reno in April as a follow-up on research connected to an aerial photograph used to identify areas of potential arsenic contamination. Based on that monitoring, preliminary soil sample analysis was conducted using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology. The USGS reported arsenic concentrations in the soil that ranged from 100 to 1100 parts per million (ppm). These high numbers caused the Park Service to close the Park and triggered a further investigation into arsenic in the park.

The USGS has also finalized its re-testing of the original soil samples obtained on site in April, and have now confirmed that the original soil samples taken at Fort Reno range from 3 ppm to 7 ppm for arsenic. Since that initial closure, the EPA has conducted two separate series of sampling at Fort Reno. Both times, the EPA used both XRF field screening technology combined with soil samples, the latter analyzed in an EPA-approved laboratory. All of EPA’s verified results indicate that the arsenic levels at Fort Reno are at background levels for this area, and well below the EPA’s arsenic removal guidance of 43 parts per million (ppm).

The USGS indicated they will try to determine testing differences during the initial analysis of the original soil samples taken and analyzed in April that caused the high results to be reported, with the USGS test results taken more recently. The USGS is confident that these recently retested and reported low levels represent the true arsenic levels for the original samples, and match the low levels also confirmed by EPA’s sampling on site for Fort Reno.

Based on these recently confirmed USGS test results and the EPA test results for arsenic, the NPS then further consulted with the ATSDR to evaluate the health implications of this information.  ATSDR stated that based on all the information and data available, that the low levels of arsenic confirmed and reported for Fort Reno do not present a threat to human health.