‘Environmental Injustice': DC Residents Sue to Block Bus Depot Construction

“They would never go to Ward 1. They would never go to Ward 2. They throw it over here,” an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Brentwood said

justice for brentwood
NBC Washington

Residents of Northeast D.C.’s Brentwood neighborhood are suing Mayor Muriel Bowser in an attempt to stop the District from building a parking lot for hundreds of school buses. 

The bus depot planned for the 1600 block of W Street NE would add significant air and noise pollution near people’s homes, the plaintiffs and their supporters argue. They say it’s an environmental justice issue for a community that already has many industrial sites. 

“They would never go to Ward 1. They would never go to Ward 2. They throw it over here,” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Darlene Oliver said. “We have a street of probably a mile of nothing but industrial pollutants. We have residents who cannot sit on their front porch because they cannot breathe.”

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) lot would combine two separate lots in Ward 5, spanning more than 4 acres and becoming home to 236 buses and 47 cars. 

That’s too much to ask of people who live just across the street, said Ward 5 Council Member Kenyan R. McDuffie. 

“We need more people to recognize the environmental injustice right here in this neighborhood," he said. "Imagine having to keep your windows closed when you have a cup of coffee to avoid the fumes of a trash transfer station coming into your home."

Resident Reggie Donaldson is among the plaintiffs. 

“We’ve been told that this won’t affect pollution. Two-hundred-fifty buses won’t affect pollution? We’ve been told it won’t affect traffic. Come on," he said.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Johnny Barnes, represented a separate group of residents in 2012 in nearby Ivy City, where the District wanted to build a depot for tour buses. Barnes won that case. 

“When you put half of the toxic waste facilities in one place, you’re ignoring the law," he said.

The mayor’s office and OSSE declined comment. The Department of General Services issued a statement saying one of the current bus lots will be leased through 2025. The statement did not address neighbors’ concerns. 

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