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PCB cleanup makes uneven progress

August 5, 2020

Bay Journal — By Timothy Wheeler — August 5, 2020

It’s been a slog, but efforts are making headway to rid the Anacostia River of long-banned toxic chemicals that make it unsafe to eat many locally caught fish.

After years of sampling and studies, District of Columbia officials have proposed tackling 11 hot spots of contamination in the lower Anacostia, which flows through DC before joining the Potomac River. The sediments in those places are laden with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a pernicious family of synthetic chemicals still making their way into fish more than four decades after being outlawed because of their risks to human health and wildlife.

“We are making real progress,” Tommy Wells, director of the district’s Department of Energy and the Environment, said at a cleanup planning meeting in June. The department’s “early action” plan, unveiled late last year, calls for a combination of dredging, capping and treatment of the PCB-tainted sediments. The projected $30 million cost is nevertheless only a down payment on dealing with the full mixture of toxic wastes, pesticides and other harmful substances fouling the river.

But officials hope that by addressing these hot spots, they can at least reduce the health risks from eating locally caught fish. After reviewing hundreds of comments on the plan, they intend to announce Sept. 30 how they’ll proceed.

Read the full article at the Bay Journal


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