Blocks From the Pope’s Mass, a Dumping Ground for the Nation’s Capital

Source: Marianne Lavelle, National Geographic, September 22, 2015

For three decades, people living in Washington’s Brentwood section have argued that they’ve been treated as a dumping ground for the nation’s capital. Many in the neighborhood, which is 93 percent African-American and has 18 percent unemployment, say the situation would never be tolerated in the city’s white or wealthy neighborhoods. Twenty-nine percent of people there live below the poverty level. … Today’s environmental problems in Brentwood have their roots in the past of Northeast Washington’s Ward 5 political district. Traversed early on by railroad lines that connect the nation’s capital to New York and other Northeast cities, the ward attracted large manufacturers, food processors, and warehouses. Those businesses are now gone, but Ward 5 was left with more than half the industrially zoned land in the District of Columbia and some of its lowest property values. In the 1980s, the vacant, cheap, industrial land drew the private trash business. At these stations, garbage trucks dump waste for consolidation in larger tractor trailers. Washington then sends its trash to a waste-to-energy incinerator and landfills in Virginia. …