In a suit brought by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of community and environmental organizations, the Navy and General Services Administration have agreed to clean up pollution at the Navy Yard and Southeast Federal Center in Southeast Washington.
"This is pollution caused by federal activities on federal property, so it's only fair that the Federal Government step in and take responsibility for cleanup," said Howard Fox of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, attorney in the case.
Founded in 1799 on the shores of the Anacostia, the 66-acre Navy Yard is the nation's oldest continuously operating naval facility. The adjacent 55-acre Southeast Federal Center, administered by the General Services Administration as a federal office complex, was previously part of the Navy Yard as well. Both parcels have been the site of weapons manufacturing and other activities that have left behind large quantities of toxic pollution, including polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury, lead, and hydrocarbons.
"As the people who live closest to these facilities, with children and other residents currently at risk from the pollution there, we are pleased that Navy and GSA are beginning to see the need to be good neighbors," said Dorothea Ferrell of Barry Farm Resident Council, an association representing residents of an adjacent housing complex. "The pollution may start out on these sites, but it doesn't stay there," added Robert Boone of Anacostia Watershed Society, an organization that has been active in investigating and combatting pollution of the river. "Instead, it has been leaking out through storm drains into the Anacostia, where it has caused a conspicuous 'spike' of toxic pollutants adjacent to these sites."
Under the settlement, the Navy and GSA agree to undertake extensive investigations of both sites - and of adjacent river sediments - to document the extent of pollution; to devise plans for cleanup; and to implement specific cleanup activities (including repair of storm sewers, treatment and removal of contaminated soils, and razing of buildings).
"The pollution from these sites has contributed to the imposition of fish advisories, which unfortunately have not prevented some individuals from continuing to place themselves at risk by consuming fish from the river," said Frazer Walton, Jr., of Kingman Park Civic Association, an organization representing the Kingman Park residential neighborhood near the sites. "The only true way to protect the community is by cleaning up the pollution before it gets into the river and the fish." Added Brent Blackwelder of Friends of the Earth, an organization active in advocacy for the District's environment: "Powerful federal agencies like the Navy and GSA need to lead the way in cleaning up their toxic pollution, so that the Anacostia can become the pride of the Nation's Capital instead of its dumping ground."
The settlement is being filed today with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Barry Farm Resident Council v. U.S. Dept. of Navy, D.D.C. Civ. Nos. 96-1450 HHG and 96-1700 HHG, and will take effect when signed by the Court. Plaintiffs in the suit are Barry Farm Resident Council, Kingman Park Civic Association, Anacostia Watershed Society, and Friends of the Earth.