From Contaminated to Revitalized: The Story of The Yards

By Barbara Smith


Have you ever wondered how visions like this become realized?
This is the story of how the U.S. Government is partnering with private sector developers to transform a once-contaminated property on the Anacostia River in Washington, DC, into a vibrant riverfront destination/community.

Believe it or not, the vision for a vibrant riverfront community came from this brown space, the Washington Navy Yard (WNY).

Image provided by EnviroMapper by EPA

Image provided by EnviroMapper by EPA

In early 1960’s, the WNY, located in southeastern Washington, DC, was recommissioned from its former use as a weapons manufacturing site to its current use as a Navy office/administration location. As part of the transition, in 1963, the WNY transferred 55 “excess” acres to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to develop into federal office space. The GSA named its new acquisition the Southeast Federal Center (SEFC).


However, the 55 acres had been heavily industrialized, with many abandoned factory buildings where ship boilers and large naval guns were manufactured from pre-World War One to post-World War Two. When GSA received the property in 1963, there were no regulations governing the clean-up of contaminated properties or how to identify and investigate contamination on these properties. Without funding to transform the former industrial site into office space, GSA made little progress in developing the SEFC site to its full potential.

Then, in 2000, Congress passed the SEFC Public/Private Development Act to assist GSA in developing the area. The Act allowed GSA to partner with private sector developers to plan and develop the SEFC parcels for eventual sale or lease. GSA’s master plan shifted from creating federal offices to creating office, residential, retail and public uses for the site.
Since the federal government works to protect human health and the environment, GSA worked with us to properly assess the property and any contamination found. This assessment is in accordance with the requirements of the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
GSA conducted a site-wide investigation and continues to clean up any contamination found on the individual parcels prior to development.
The investigation, conducted under our RCRA Corrective Action Program, found that previous intensive industrial use had left contaminants in the soil. The picture above shows soil testing taking place at the site to see which contaminants are present.

Several soil removals have been completed, including removing PCB-contaminated sediment from storm sewers and on-site soil contaminated with petroleum and metals. GSA continues to remove contaminated soil from the surface and at depth from parcels being prepared for development.

GSA removed an old wooden seawall on the Anacostia River and replaced it with a modern concrete and steel pier.

Image provided by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

Image provided by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

The above picture is the first parcel that was developed and sold, known as the “Department of Transportation (DOT) Parcel.” During the site investigation, groundwater contaminated with gasoline was found at levels above EPA drinking water standards. The sources of this contaminated groundwater were leaking underground storage tanks from an off-site former gas station and possibly some on-site contamination.

The groundwater has been treated and contaminant levels are stable or declining. The office building has a moisture/vapor barrier and is supplied by public water which ensures that workers and pedestrians are not exposed to contaminants.

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

The other developed portions of the SEFC are known as ‘The Yards’. The Yards is a part of the revitalization and redevelopment of properties along the Anacostia River in Washington, DC known as the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, which includes the Nationals Baseball Stadium just down river, adjacent to The Yards. The Yards Park (shown above) is located within The Yards and includes an entertainment/performance area, boardwalk and now a marina. This public park was made possible by GSA, the developer, Forest City Washington and the city of Washington, DC.

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

Image courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID

The Anacostia River Trail is also a result of the redevelopment. This picture shows a section of the River Trail located by The Yards Park.


Almost half of The Yards development parcels are complete, with total build out scheduled for 2025. What was once an urban, industrial environment is now a revitalized area, anchored by redevelopment.

Our RCRA Corrective Action program continues to oversee the environmental investigation and clean-up process to ensure that development and future land use will be protective of human health and the environment.

About the author: For the last 15 of her 25 years with EPA Region 3, Barbara Smith has been working in the RCRA Corrective Action group, working with Facilities in transforming their contaminated properties into cleaner, safer places to live and work. Barbara looks forward to living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere someday.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Restoring a Stream, Restoring a Community

by Lori Reynolds

narsWhile I enjoy coming into the office and working side-by-side with my colleagues on water infrastructure financing, whenever I get the chance to get out and see how those funds are making a difference in communities and to shake hands with our partners, I jump at it.  Numbers on a ledger come alive in real projects helping real people.

I had that opportunity last Friday for the opening of the Nash Run stream restoration and trash capture project, located in the Kenilworth neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C.

Nash Run was a typical urban stream, impacted by stormwater flows, choked with trash, and a nuisance to the neighbors.   Besides trash and debris, stream flooding caused trees to fall and backyards to disappear into a muddy Nash Run.

In early 2010, the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) was contacted by local residents about the stream conditions.  Although a recognized challenge, DOEE shared the concerns and offered assistance.  It wasn’t long before a partnership and bond formed between the community, led by Ms. Katherine Brown, a block captain, and Josh Burch in DOEE’s Planning and Restoration Branch.

Over several years, community volunteers worked to remove trash from the stream and DOEE set out to secure needed funding.   Using funds from the District’s bag fee, DOEE began project design.   EPA provided federal funding for stream restoration and a trash trap with additional funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Trash trap on the Nash Run stream which captures litter, projects wildlife and improves water quality for the Anacostia River.

Trash trap on the Nash Run stream which captures litter, protects wildlife and improves water quality for the Anacostia River.

Although the funding is important and it made the project possible, it’s the heart and soul of all the people involved that made this enterprise a success story.  Josh Burch worked tirelessly getting easements along the stream and those residents remained involved and engaged throughout the project.

The opening ceremony was marked with words of appreciation and gratitude spoken by Ms. Brown and Josh Burch and words of congratulations expressed by EPA’s Region III Deputy Regional Administrator Cecil Rodrigues, as well as Amanda Bassow of NFWF.

As a long time EPA employee, it was a proud moment to be part of something so impactful.   At EPA, we work daily to protect the environment and improve public health, and it was evident that with this project we touched people’s lives.  There were many parents with young children in attendance at the ceremony.   In fact, it was the community members who gathered and cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Because of caring, dedicated people and government support, the children growing up in this neighborhood will experience a trash free Nash Run with turtles, fish, and frogs instead of tires and plastic bottles.  An investment was demonstrated, not only in a stream restoration project but in the people of a community who are committed for the long term.  The Nash Run stream restoration and trash capture project made a visible difference to this local community.

 

About the Author:  Lori Reynolds works in the region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure.  She is naturally drawn to water, working in the Water Protection Division, swimming in pools and open water as part of a Master’s swim team, and as an Aquarius.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Around the Water Cooler: Rivers offer food and fun (but only when clean)

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

This week, a colleague handed me the City Paper with an article about how thousands in the Washington, D.C. metro area eat catfish caught locally in the Anacostia River. The article saddened me for a variety of reasons. Mostly because fishing in our rivers, especially urban rivers, brings with it a host of public health concerns. Quite frankly, with combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff flushing pathogens and chemicals into them, many of our rivers are kinda dirty. Yuck.

But despite the health advisories and warnings that consuming fish from the river can be hazardous to health, many people still do it. The article highlights a survey (partially funded by EPA, other government agencies and stakeholders) conducted to study fishing in the Anacostia  and determine the extent of consumption and sharing of fish from the river; awareness and attitudes among anglers about potential health risks; and, strategies for lessening the consumption of contaminated fish.

The study shows that the reasons people fish in the Anacostia are extremely complex, and are mostly related to economics and culture.

The good news is that EPA is working with local officials and stakeholders in Washington, D.C.  to clean up the Anacostia so it can be fishable and swimmable again. Earlier this year the Anacostia River Revitalization Fund was established.  The fund, which will invest $1 million in restoration activities this year, with a total goal of investing $5 million over the next three years, will be used to protect and restore the Anacostia River and to create a national model for watershed conservation. The National Fish and Wildlife Fund, in partnership with EPA and the DC Department of the Environment and with funding from corporate sponsors, created the fund, which will award grants to local partnering organizations.

In addition, EPA scientists have developed a variety of tools and models to look at ecological exposure.  This research on water is spread over several areas: detection, assessment, function, and outcomes so that we know what our water has been exposed to, can assess it and ultimately ensure that it is safe for drinking, fishing and even swimming .

The Anacostia River watershed is just one of many that need our help and attention to keep it clean so that it can once again be a source of food and recreation that we can be proud of.

To help protect your watershed, learn more here.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research team and a frequent “Around the Water Cooler” contributor.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

It’s All About Connections

By Reginald Parrish

Growing up in Central Virginia, I spent many hours enjoying the natural landscape of the region. A favorite past time was fishing along the banks of the James River just north of Lynchburg. I recall being puzzled about why we were told to under no circumstance eat the fish. Still, the river provided a tranquil and relaxing spot — an integral part of our community.

In 2000, I accepted a position as EPA’s Anacostia River community liaison. The Anacostia River is a heavily polluted river that flows from Maryland and traverses the nation’s capitol, bordering historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I conducted outreach to “east of the river” communities about how to improve the quality of the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. As I met with citizens, it became clear that these communities have more pressing concerns than restoring the Anacostia River–joblessness, housing, schools, public safety and economic development. As on the James River, I met many people on the Anacostia who fish as a pastime and consume the fish regardless of warnings.

EPA’s Urban Waters program reconnects populations with their local urban waters to accelerate the restoration of these waters. Over the past several years, EPA and other federal agencies have promoted citizen engagement in hands-on restoration through grants for education and outreach programs for schools, churches, and communities. The Anacostia is also one of seven pilot locations of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

EPA’s Urban Waters program supports and advances other community priorities, such as education and jobs through environmental activities. To further this goal, EPA is renewing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide environmental training to at-risk youth with the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC). EPA and ECC are part of a broader local effort by Anacostia Watershed Society, DC Greenworks, Groundwork Anacostia, Living Classrooms, Washington Parks and People to make the restoration of the river relevant to community priorities – by leading youth to green skills and green jobs.

I participated in this program and had a very successful experience with Anthony Gregory who later received an internship with the National Park Service. Anthony is currently still engaged in work on the Anacostia and is excited about working to improve the river. Anthony’s experience is just one of a number of experiences that connect people to their places through ECC and EPA. I am happy to be a part of that experience.

About the author: Reginald Parrish is an urban programs coordinator based in EPA’s Region 3 Chesapeake Bay Program Office

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.