Get our free newsletter

Watch out for asbestos!

The detailed Final Reuse Plan for Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been released, and it has all sorts of pictures and facts about what will happen to the 62 acres under redevelopment, which are worth a read if you’re impacted. But one of the bigger X factors, from the perspective of the District and the entities that will be using any of the buildings that are either to be demolished or renovated, is the amount of contamination they’ll have to deal with.

The accounting: The Army has identified asbestos in seven buildings, assumes the presence of lead-based paint in any building constructed before 1978, and has found petroleum and PCBs in soil samples, most notably the southwest quadrant of the property. Contamination is particularly bad around the historically-designated central heating plant, known as Building 15, which the plan identifies as an “attractive retail destination.” Plus, two 400,000-gallon underground storage tanks, which have been used to hold heating oil, will have to be removed. “The cost could possibly be significant,” the report reads.

Of course, nasty chemicals come with the territory in the adaptive re-use of old buildings. But from the sound of it, the full scope of nastiness at Walter Reed hasn’t been conclusively determined, and the Army washes its hands of responsibility for dealing with any problems as soon as the land transfer occurs. Buyer beware!