Alexandria has facilitated toxic chemicals released into the Potomac River for more than 45 years. According to a fresh lawsuit by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, it has not seized any action to rectify the problem.
“The city of Alexandria owns this pollution,” explains Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. “We want them to fix the contamination problems that they’ve created.”
The origin of the problem can be traced back to the mid-19th century. Before the advent of electricity, many communities, including Alexandria, gave birth to factories that utilized coal to produce natural gas and relied on it for household power needs, from lighting to cooking.
The Alexandria-produced gas plant is located in Old Town, near where Oronoco St. expires at the waterfront. Between 1851 and 1946, the plant powered the town with coal-originated natural gas. The procedure released tons of air pollution but even worse, and it left behind a gift of soil and groundwater polluted with coal tar that has yet to be remediated more than 75 years after the plant closed. That pollution now gets into the river through a stormwater pipe that releases at the northern end of Founders Park.
According to the EPA, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 rusty manufactured gas plant locations around the country.
The discharges from the pipe started after the gasworks site was rebuilt in the 1970s, renovated by townhouses and offices.