Justice For Langdon Park

Addison Sarter
9 min readJul 18, 2019
( Tracy Loeffelholz DunnShutterstock images from Lorelyn Medina, Agusto Cabral)

This is an open letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Dear Mayor Muriel Bowser,

My name is Addison Sarter, and I am running for the At-Large City Council seat in DC.

For nearly the past 30 years, the Langdon Park neighborhood in Northeast DC has been poisoned by deadly chemicals against their will and without any intervention from the government. The residents are being poisoned by multiple toxic waste facilities that have been polluting the air of Langdon Park as well as the adjacent neighborhood, called Brentwood. I have recently learned that it is finally being shut down but being turned into a place to storage equipment.

After poisoning the community for 30 years, there needs to be a reparation or compensation. The land in which these facilities sit on should be turned into something that benefits the community. The land that these facilities sit on are about as big as two football fields. I recommend a Wellness Center for Black women, due to the fact that D.C. is ranked one of the most dangerous places for black women to give birth. I also recommend the land being turned into affordable housing for the hundreds of impoverished residents who are about to be displaced from that community. This is the moral and just thing to do.

Map of D.C. National Geographic.
A dumping site in Langdon Park. Fox 5.

These facilities are polluting and poisoning the bodies of humans, from the elderly to the children. Toxic waste facilities pollute the air with toxic chemicals that cause cancer, heart , kidney, and lung diseases, and psychological disorders. By just breathing the air in this neighborhood you are risking your life. This neighborhood is also home to the some of the most polluted and poisonous water in D.C.

When I was a baby, my mother got wind of the fact that a company was going to burn soil using an incinerator right across the street which could have been fatal for the residents. Fortunately my parents were able to prevent them from allowing the incinerator to burn the soil on our street and neighborhood.

In the same article above, my mother stated that she and my father toured the facility and that they couldn’t even stand there, because of the fumes. This was even before the plan to burn the soil.

Other toxic waste facilities, including the one right infront of my childhood home, still stand in this neighborhood.

Within that same year 93–94, the EPA warned my parents that a chemical called “Cryptosporidium parvum” might have gotten into our water supply. It is labeled as the most deadly chemical for an infant to be exposed to. I was blessed, but the same year, this same chemical poisoned 400,000 people in Milwaukee, and may have caused several deaths.

According to NBC 4 Washington, during the “DC Water Scandal”, from 2001 — 2004, in which the residents of the city were exposed to high levels of lead in the water, Langdon Park had one of the highest levels of lead.

A Virginia Tech Environmental engineer named Marc Edwards, said “People don’t realize this — the extent of the problem in D.C. was about 20 to 30 times larger than Flint,”

There was more lead poisoning, more exposure of people.”

One of the toxic waste facilities brings thousands of tons of garbage every year from outside of the DC area. In a 2015 National Geographic article , about the same toxic waste center in DC, Morris L Shearin, Sr. (now deceased),pastor of Israel Paptist Church for 27 years , said,

The trash is from Virginia, Delaware, wherever they can find it. It’s coming from everywhere, they will dump a load off on Friday and close the doors over the weekend. And when they roll that door up after the weekend, it is awful in this community.”

Another resident named Michelle Bundy, spoke about the issue in a 2014 city council hearing.

The odor is so bad there are no words in the dictionary to describe [it],” she said.We sit as hostages held inside our home during Indian summers 24 hours a day. Some of my neighbors are 85 years old and older, and they view this as a form of disrespect. They cannot sit on porches and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Our children are classified as underachievers, but they…cannot enjoy natural vitamin D. They cannot breathe the air.

This is the reality and frustration of the residents of Langdon Park and Brentwood. In an interview during a local Fox 5 DC news segment, resident Betty Colson said,

“The rats are bad, the trucks are bad, the dust is bad, the dirt is bad, the noise is bad.”

A dumping site in Langdon Park. Fox 5.

Langdon Park resident Jeremy Wilcox told The Washington Post that “it’s like the city is telling us we’re undesirable. We are a dumping ground — — Ward 5 is a dumping ground.”

Another photo of the dumping site in Langdon Park. Fox 5.

What is going on in Ward 5, in DC is not an isolated crisis. All across DC and America in predominately black neighborhoods, there are toxic waste centers polluting the environment. The official names for this epidemic is “environmental injustice” or “environmental racism.” This is the placement of toxic waste centers in predominately minority neighborhoods.

According to a 2007 study called, “Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty,” stated that, “more than half of all communities that live near toxic hazardous waste sites, were communities of color.”

A 2018 study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), called, “Disparities in Distribution of Particulate Matter Emission Sources by Race and Poverty Status”, found that African-Americans suffer the most from environmental pollution. The results showed that African Americans deal with a “54 percent higher health burden, compared to the overall population in America.” One might say “well this is just a poverty issue and not a race issue.” According to a 1987 report, race was the number one factor determining who would be polluted. A study done by the University of Minnesota in 2014, confirmed that this was still the case. The evidence is clear that environmental pollution is race related.

Recently, there have been black neighborhoods that have tried to fight this environmental injustice. In Louisiana, there is a town that lies along the Mississippi River, called LaPlace. The black residents in that area refer to it as “Cancer Alley”, due to the the prevalence of cancer in that community. Residents say the high rates of cancer stems from a toxic waste facility in that town. According to the EPA, this site produces 99 percent of America’s chloroprene pollution. The EPA says that it is a carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. The residents have been fighting to get the facility shut down for years but have had little to no success.

Around the corner from Langdon Park is a housing project called Montana Terrace, in which the residents are living in horrible conditions. To give you an idea of the conditions the residents are living in, below are two videos made by the social justice organization called “Justice First.” The resident named Gretchen Helm as shown in the second video, talked about how the toxins from the mold in in her unit kept giving her and her kids fungus and caused her and her daughter’s hair to fall out before.

I read today thay 31 children have been killed in DC this year. As we continue to rally for the rights of many children to live, in hopes of protecting them from guns and mass shootings, hopefully we can protect children from toxic waste facilities too. As learned in this Daily Beast article here, pollution is indeed a violent crime. The violence must be stopped. The children and residents of Northeast DC, and other predominately minority, low income communities deserve to breathe and live in a healthy environment as well. Black people are more likely to fall victim to environmental pollution than gun violence or police brutality.

A larger issue embedded with environmental pollution is healthcare. Many low-income families lack healthcare. A community poisoned with several health issues, against their will, deserves free healthcare, opposed to potentially being charged for being a victim.

To make matters worse, hundreds and hundreds of black impoverished residents are going to be kicked out of their homes in this neighborhood. In Brentwood, sits a massive affordable housing development called, Brookland Manor. The developers are planning to tear down the apartment and redevelop it.

Many residents believe that the redeveloped apartments will be for predominately, affluent residents. In 2017 I visited my former house and spoke with the new owner. She told me that she believed the toxic waste centers won’t close down until the neighborhood becomes “more white.”

Kicking people out of their homes, after they have been poisoned for nearly 30 years is not justice. That is the opposite of justice.

What would justice for Langdon Park look like? Justice would be, closing the toxic waste facilities and turning that land into something that will benefit the community. Here are some ways that the land can be turned into something for the benefit of the community.

A Wellness Center For Black Women.

As the studies show, black women are 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy related complications, than white women. DC is ranked the most dangerous place for black women to give birth. It is an epidemic nationwide. It is not a poverty issue, since black women with advanced degrees are still more likely to die from childbirth than white women with just a high school diploma.

Systematic racism is one of the main causes. On top of the. issues they face today, black women are the only women on this planet who can say the economy of their country was once rooted in their sexual abuse (slave breeding). Generational trauma is real and it has effects. That trauma has been passed down generation after generation.

Black women are more likely to be exposed to chronic stress through out their lives, which plays a role in maternal and infant mortality, as well as other diseases. My goal is to advocate for a Wellness Center built specifically for black women in DC, that they can use for little to no cost, with the hopes of alleviating the stress in their lives. A safe space for black women to fellowship, relax, and to escape from societal pressures.

-Affordable Housing.

In a letter to City Council, you stated that the city is running low on places to store documents and equipment storage facilities for documents and equipment, and that toxic waste facility would be a “strong site for warehousing and storage purposes.” As stated earlier at least one of the facilities is as big as two football fields, which could easily be a place to provide affordable housing for low-income residents.

-A Hub For Black Businesses/Black Entrepreneurship /Job Training Center.

Studies have shown that entrepreneurship in black communities can help reduce the wealth gap between blacks and whites. This land could be used as a place for black entrepreneurs and black businesses to generate wealth in the community.

Thanks for reading and I hope you are able to act on this.


Addison Sarter


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