We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
At a March 2 community meeting, Col. Jeffrey Davies, garrison commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, mentioned in passing a hazardous-material removal at the site. When alarmed neighbors pressed for more details, Davies explained it had been a radioactive cleanup. The problem, he explains, turned up during a pre-renovation check of Building 40 on the campus, which revealed elevated levels of radioactive isotopes of carbon, lead, and sodium. There were three “hot spots” in all, Davies says, in abandoned laboratories. “That’s very common in a lab that uses radioisotopes that can spill or splash,” Davies says. Radioactivity levels were only slightly above the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s permissible levels, which are roughly equivalent to one chest X-ray per year; cleanup crews, Davies says, wore protective suits primarily to avoid asbestos rather than radiation. “I’m happy to report at this point, all the problem areas have been cleaned up,” he says. —Mike DeBonis