Army Suspends Search for Buried Munitions
The Army Corps of Engineers has halted its excavation for World War I chemical weapons in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest Washington while it assesses whether its safety procedures are adequate for the munitions that are being uncovered, officials said yesterday.
The review was prompted by preliminary analysis of an artillery round discovered about three weeks ago in a pit in the 4800 block of Glenbrook Road. In October, the Corps launched its latest excavation, searching for chemical weapons buried by the Army when it closed a testing facility at American University at the end of World War I.
The Army's safety procedures for the excavation assume a worst-case scenario involving the release of arsine, a toxic chemical agent from a 75mm artillery round that was not configured to explode. Corps officials said they do not know whether the artillery round recently discovered is explosively configured.
"We're making an assessment of that situation now," said Ed Hughes, the Corps' Spring Valley program manager. The round is being analyzed at a Corps facility on federal land near Sibley Hospital.
None of the munitions excavated in Spring Valley since chemical weapons were discovered in the neighborhood in 1993 has been configured to explode, said Dan Noble, a Corps official overseeing the excavation.
-- Steve Vogel
Events Commemorate 'Refusenik' Movement
U.S. and Israeli officials will appear today at events marking the 40th anniversary of the "refusenik movement," in which Soviet Jews began speaking out for their right to emigrate to Israel and for freedom of religious expression within the Soviet Union.
A million Soviet Jews left for Israel as a result of the movement, which raised awareness around the world of religious persecution.