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Environmentalists cry foul over D.C. waterfront use

for sewage treatment plant, penitentiary

(Published April 19, 1999)


Staff Writer

As the motorboat chugs southward on the Potomac River, D.C. environmental and community activist Greg Rhett leans on the starboard rail and watches Alexandria passing.

"Look at the difference between their side of the river," he says, gesturing toward Old Town’s tony townhouses and retail businesses that front the river, "and our side." He points to the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant in the District. "It’s ridiculous. It’s the same river."

Rhett, along with other members of the Sierra Club, hosted the recent boat ride on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers to raise awareness about environmental and development issues that affect the river system.

The organization designated Oxon Cove, site of a proposed 1,200-bed prison, as a target area for preservation efforts.

"Proposing to build a prison on a low-income, minority community’s parkland is a textbook case of environmental injustice," said Anna El-Eini, coordinator for the D.C. Environmental Network.

The Sierra Club announced activities for Earth Day that will take place at Oxon Cove as part of the group’s effort to get the site designated as waterfront parkland.

On April 22, volunteers will distribute postcards that can be mailed to the mayor’s office asking him to help protect Oxon Cove. A nature walk and clean-up effort will be held there April 24 beginning at 10 a.m. The day’s activities also include a family picnic.

The group also is encouraging "smart growth" proposals for the Southwest waterfront near Buzzard Point, including the Southwest Federal Center. The area is supported by two Metro stations and a major thoroughfare that could support residential and business development.

These initiatives were included in an "environmental agenda" for 1999 released recently by Friends of the Earth and supported by 11 other groups. Items on the agenda include an expansion of the city’s recycling program to include schools and government buildings, and proposals to improve the drinking water in the District and to protect the rivers.

The report called for transportation initiatives that would improve bus service to under-served neighborhoods and that would also phase out diesel buses and replace them with cleaner-fuel buses.

The agenda contains 27 proposals that dealt with trash, water, parks and transportation issues as well as economic revitalization and environmental legislation.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator