Updated at 4:30 p.m.
Local public utility Washington Gas Light Company is being sued in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over its alleged failure to clean up a hazardous site along the Anacostia River.
According to the complaint (PDF) filed Wednesday, the company is accused of failing to remove toxic materials from soil and water around a property slated to become public recreational space. The utility is being sued by the Anacostia Riverkeeper and Anacostia Watershed Society, nonprofit environmental advocacy organizations.
The Anacostia River, as noted in the complaint, has a long history of contamination and is considered by city officials to be neither swimmable nor fishable. Starting in 1888, Washington Gas operated a gas manufacturing plant along the river, which was closed in 1983 and demolished in 1988. The company still owns about 11 acres of the 18-acre East Station Site.
According to the complaint, “The residuals of Washington Gas’s gas manufacturing activities include hazardous contaminants, such as: oil and coal tar, which contains carcinogenic and toxic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons; volatile organic compounds, such as benzene; and toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, beryllium, and lead.”
After the plant was demolished, a series of studies found dangerous levels of toxic contamination in the soil and water in and around the site. The other seven acres of the East Station Site are owned by the city and set to become public recreational sites in the future.
Alleging that Washington Gas has failed to clean up its part of the site in accordance with a decision issued in 2006, the two groups filed suit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976.
"It's not done yet and it's months too late," said Brent Bolin, director of advocacy for the Anacostia Watershed Society. "We feel like by us taking this action, we’re going to get this unstuck ... We’ve tried to let the process work itself out but it hasn’t."
A Washington Gas spokesman declined to comment, citing the pending legal action. The nonprofits are being represented by attorneys with the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center.