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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 pending further testing. 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 press conferences at the scene on May 14th and 15th in order to update residents on the District’s planned efforts.
Who is Involved in the Response?
- 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: Provide support.
- District Fire/EMS and Police Departments: First-responders.
- Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency: First-responders.
- Department of Health: Advise as to any potential adverse health impacts.
- District of Columbia Public Schools: Assess potential impact on Wilson High School and Deal Junior High School, which are adjacent to Fort Reno.
What's Happening So Far:
The US Geological Survey (USGS) previously conducted satellite imagery in order to determine potential sites of arsenic concentrations, which indicated Fort Reno Park as an affected site.
Initial sample testing was conducted by the 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).
The National Park Service erected fencing around Fort Reno Park in order to prevent any potential exposure until further test results are available.
Soil sample collection from Fort Reno, Wilson High School and Deal Junior High was completed. Results will be available in 24-48 hours.
What's Happening Now:
Fort Reno Park will stay closed until test results are available. Since Fort Reno Park is federal property, EPA Region 3 has assigned an on-scene coordinator to oversee monitoring.
DCWASA and the Army Corps regularly test arsenic levels within the 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 had also indicated potential contamination at the Wilson High School track. Since the new 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 until monitoring is complete.
The District learned that extensive testing of Turtle Park by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Spring Valley investigation found that arsenic levels were below the action level. EPA and DDOE staff conducted screening activities at Turtle Park on May 15, which showed that arsenic remains below the action level.
DDOE will continue to 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.
Residents who consume vegetables from Fort Reno Park’s gardens are advised to thoroughly wash all vegetables as a precaution.
Information on Arsenic:
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)
For more information, contact George Hawkins, DDOE, at (202) 535-2615 or Jill Wohrle, DDOE at (202) 535-1983.