Thursday, November 13, 2014
WWI CHEMICAL MUNITIONS BURIED IN BETHESDA?
Apparently, the mustard gas shells that were tested - and eventually, quietly buried - around American University were brought to the area by train, and then trucked from today's Westwood Shopping Center site to the university. Legend has it that a rail car containing these poisonous shells ran away from the rail yard, rolled down the Crown Street spur back towards the main line, and derailed at the bottom of the hill. Supposedly, the volatile car was then buried in the quarry pit in the vicinity of the structures at 5200 River Road (down at the end of the un-named road that runs down past EuroMotorcars Volvo). The military then instructed that concrete be poured over the rail car, and it very likely is still down there. There are apparently some other as-yet unidentified substances underground at various sites in the Westbard Sector. Reportedly, other rail cars were buried down in the quarry area when the Pentagon eventually abandoned the site. Their contents, if any, are unknown.
Planners have assured they are looking into the potential contaminants at these and other sites in the Sector Plan. It would seem that, if records indeed confirm this credible story, that excavation of these sites should be handled cautiously and with U.S. military oversight, as with the American University/Spring Valley munitions cleanup. Certainly, military records should be examined to determine the full scope of activities at this site, and along the former route of the spur.
A preliminary review of soil maps from the World War I era, along with notes made from walking the area prior to the charette by environmental planners, did appear to confirm the remains of a road bed or railroad bed in that vicinity below the grade drop from the Westbard level.