The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Washington, D.C.:
Power Company Pollutes River

Oct 16, 2023

Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco) agreed to pay 10 million dollars in penalties and promised to spend 47 million dollars to clean up the Anacostia River and contamination at two riverside facilities and numerous underground sites in Washington, D.C.

From 1933 to 2013 Pepco’s coal and oil-fired power generating station at Buzzard Point spilled and released petroleum and hazardous substances like carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers in D.C. For 100 years Pepco also has been releasing unfiltered wastewater laced with oil into the city’s storm water system, which empties into the Anacostia.

Pepco leaked and spilled oily water in working class neighborhoods, not the rich neighborhoods far west of the river. This pollution has contributed to the decades-long contamination of the Anacostia. Thousands of people used to swim in the river and depend on eating the fish. How many people have been poisoned and sickened—even killed—by toxic discharges into the river?

The settlement is equivalent to hardly more than one day of Pepco’s annual revenue of 19 billion dollars; Pepco won’t even miss it.

Pepco could have produced electricity without illegally dumping. In fact, electricity can be produced much more cleanly and with a smaller contribution to climate change. The technology exists today: scrubbers in smoke stacks, and so forth. But Pepco and other power companies would rather make billions instead of doing what is necessary for the health of people and the environment.