Washington, D.C. - The recently released Final Reuse Plan for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. describes in great detail what will happen to the 62 acres under redevelopment. However, there is still a great deal of concern surrounding the amount of contamination that will have to be dealt with in buildings slated for demolition and renovation.
The Army assumes the presence of lead-based paint in any building constructed before 1978, has found petroleum and PCBs in soil samples and has identified asbestos in seven buildings. Asbestos is a toxic fiber used commonly in construction prior to the 1980’s and is known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the body’s major cavities and organs.
The area around the historically-designated central heating plant is particularly contaminated. Known as Building 15, the plan lists it as an “attractive retail destination.” Additionally, two 400,000-gallon underground storage tanks used to hold heating oil have to be removed. The cost of this clean-up is expected to be “significant.”
Asbestos abatement on its own is an expensive undertaking, as it is a long, legally regulated process. However, if asbestos removal is not handled property, both workers and the surrounding community could be exposed to carcinogenic fibers that can cause pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, which affect the lining of the lungs and abdomen respectively.
The full scope of contamination at Walter Reed has yet to be conclusively determined, and the Army is showing little interest in dealing with any problems. It is, however, eager to move on with the land transfer.