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Washington Arsenic Cleanup Progressing

Feb 3, 2003 | AP

The Army Corps of Engineers has removed more than 10,000 tons of arsenic-contaminated soil from the grounds of American University and nearby homes, officials said Monday.

The neighborhood, about four miles northwest of the White House, it was used for chemical weapons testing during World War I. Those involved in the cleanup briefed the mayor's advisory panel on their progress Monday.

The corps said it has safely removed more than 425 munitions and bottles containing chemicals.

"All known arsenic over 150 parts per million should be out of the neighborhood by the into the summer," said Gary Schilling, the corps' project manager.

Schilling said the Korean ambassador's residence, where crews found rounds containing arsine gas, has been decontaminated and restored.

The full project is expected to take six to 10 years, with 120 properties still slated for cleanup.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been investigating the health effects on residents. Dr. Michael Richardson of the District of Columbia Department of Health said the department will send a letter to doctors in Washington, asking whether they have treated patients with diseases that could be linked to arsenic.

"We're looking for cancers, particularly skin cancers, marrow diseases, likely leukemia and chronic anemias," Richardson said. "We're also looking for unexplained or progressive respiratory diseases."

A separate report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry tested residents who lived in contaminated testing areas. Of those, eight percent had elevated levels of arsenic, but officials stressed those levels were too low to expect health effects.


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