D.C. Neighborhood's Chemical Weapons Problem

There are a few drawbacks to online home evaluations like Zillow's Zestimate. Like, for instance, they can't tell you whether a bomb is buried in a backyard.

Sure, it's unlikely an unexploded munition is a shovelful beneath your begonias, but in Washington D.C.'s Spring Valley neighborhood, the chances are significantly higher. That's because Spring Valley once was the site of the U.S. Army's chemical warfare research center and testing grounds, and since 1993 workers have uncovered all sorts of leftovers from this ominous chapter of history, including old bombs, chemical weapons, 50-gallon drums and more.

Just last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found a glass container, that, when unearthed, began smoking. It contained arsenic trichloride, which at the very least causes skin irritation, and at its worst can cause damage to the central nervous system and death. Since January, hazardous materials experts working on the front lawn of an unoccupied home on Glenbrook Road have uncovered liquid mustard and munitions as well, according to reports in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Yet Spring Valley continues to attract new homeowners, and it's easy to see why: This is one of D.C.'s prettiest upscale neighborhoods, with manicured lawns, verdant woods, established landscaping and elegant homes. It's a community of powerbrokers and diplomats, including the president of American University, a former U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and the current South Korean ambassador to the United States.

"It's a very popular neighborhood, says Carroll Thornton-Chapin of Washington Fine Properties, who has a listing at 5012 Tilden Street NW.