There is lots of talk and anticipation of a new soccer stadium coming to Buzzard Point. The new stadium will bring thousands of fans and visitors to an area that has been a heavily utilized industrial area for decades. A trip down to Buzzard Point reveals concerning images and overwhelming smells of surface levels of contamination that is also hidden below huge piles of dirt and byproducts of industrial waste, including in the soil in the old Buzzard Point Substation. The highly contaminated substation will remain a part of Buzzard Point. It is not clear whether any remediation will actually take place on this site to prevent the continued exposure of residents, visitors, and fans to hazardous airborne chemicals that exist in the old substation. The toxic dusts can be seen constantly blowing toward the residential community, especially on hot days when clouds of cement dust come out of the Superior Concrete material plant. The plant is currently in the footprint of the soccer stadium as well as other sites down on Buzzard Point.
Residents of the near–Buzzard Point residential community have had to tolerate the ill health effects that may come with inhaling constant airborne toxic chemicals from the salvage yard that has ground-zero levels of contamination and other contaminates sites in the area. Some sites also have groundwater runoff of chemicals that include petroleum. The health and level of exposure to airborne chemicals of these residents appear to have been placed on the back burner behind the city meeting contract requirements with DC United. The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) will perform a voluntary cleanup of Buzzard Point in preparation for the soccer stadium. However, there has been no public meeting held to discuss DMPED’s Voluntary Cleanup Action Plan, including the thousands of pages of documents that are included in the plan. A request for an extension of the comment period by the Anacostia Watershed Society that was signed by ANC commissioners was denied because of the timetable laid out for the delivery of this plan in the agreement between the city and DC United. The rush to build the soccer stadium appears to be taking a priority over the health and well-being of the residents in Southwest. It is not fair to the community to not be given an opportunity to discuss the types of contaminants that exist in Buzzard Point, including how they will be remediated without exposing residents to more airborne contaminants than they are already exposed to daily.
It is not clear why the District has not performed a health assessment of the near–Buzzard Point residential community prior to allowing Pepco to construct the Waterfront Substation and prior to DMPED’s Voluntary Cleanup Action Plan in Buzzard Point. Pepco was given approval to construct the Waterfront Substation by the Public Service Commission without a serious look into the health impact that the project will have on the near–Buzzard Point residential community pre- and post-construction. Substations release low levels of electromagnetic radiation in addition to what people are exposed to in the environment. There is concern as to why an additional substation will be constructed right next to residents that have existing health disparities that may stem in part from years of exposure to the contaminated soil and industrial activities coming from Buzzard Point. Many of these low-to-moderate-income residents live in garden-style apartments and homes that have only window air conditioning units that cannot filter high levels of contaminated dust. The residents on this end will also be the closest to the construction of the new South Capitol Street Bridge. Southwest, like other areas in the city, is facing being overburdened by huge development projects and tremendous traffic congestion that threaten the very quality of the lives of residents including their health. There needs to be a better level of transparency as it relates to the mass cleanup of Buzzard Point in preparation for the soccer stadium and considering what the community is already dealing with.
By: Rhonda Hamilton