Monday, October 12, 2020

Actions start at the lowest Level. What about in your community? D.C. Ward Commissioner Testimony to City Council on Environmental Concerns of Residents. October 2020


Salim Adofo


Single Member District 8C07

Official Testimony to the Council of the District of Columbia

Committee on

Committee on Facilities and Procurement

Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020

The Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020 is a very important issue for the residents of the District of Columbia, especially for our underserved communities.  African American, Latin, immigrant and other underserved communities are often subjected to environmental racism. Environmental racism is the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, excluding people of color from leadership of the ecology movements and the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities.  Lead is one of such pollutants. 


Research conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that high levels of lead can lead to developmental delays in children under the age of eight.  These studies suggest that there is no safe level of lead exposure for young children and no matter how small, these effects are enduring and possibly permanent. This is of extreme importance to the residents of the District of Columbia. 


In 2016, 64 public schools in the District of Columbia had a water source test positive for a level of lead at or above the federal action level. Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 15 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in public water systems. This is of grave concern for Single Member District 8C07, because parents observed brown water in  Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, located in 8C07, according to CBS affiliate WUSA9. As stated earlier, high levels of lead can lead to developmental delays in children under the age of eight.  The grade levels for MLK Elementary School are Pre-Kindergarten to 5th Grade. 


Research published by the Brookings Institute revealed that populations exposed to lead in their drinking water causes much higher homicide rates 20 years later, relative to similar communities where there was less exposure. Currently, the homicide rate in the District of Columbia is up thirteen percent, per the Metropolitan Police Department. Culminating all of this data and research one can logically conclude that having lead in the water of the residents of DC is one of the many factors that are contributing to an increasing homicide rate. 

Therefore, the passing of this bill is not just a matter of passing another piece of legislation. This is a matter of the Council of the District of Columbia valualing Black Lives. This is a matter of addressing many societal ills that Single Member District 8C07 faces because of years of environmental neglect. Environmental justice is as much an issue as any other issue that adversely impacts African American communities. On behalf of the residents of Single Member District 8C07 we advise the council to pass the Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020, with the following recommendations:


1.     The Bill should include conditions regarding the impact of emergency hazards that may impact District-owned buildings such as extreme weather, fires, etc.

2.     The Bill should include a focus on buildings built before 1978 and the high probability that there may be lead exposure. The recommendation is to adjust the definition of “substantial renovation” to include the condition (caveat) requiring a building built before 1978 to be considered “substantial renovation” with any renovation (1%>)

3.     The Bill should incorporate aspects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensuring that all public meetings or public postings (i.e. the Department of General Services’ website) are accessible in all languages reflective of the impacted members of the community. Additionally, there should be provisions for ASL signers if a need is indicated. Website postings should have a reading application to support individuals with hearing impairments.

4.     In regards to assessments and testing, the Bill should require a neutral external contractor to conduct the assessment while DGS serves as the monitoring agency. This recommendation is to eliminate bias in testing. Fair contracting practices should be executed and made transparent to the public (e.g. transparent bidding process for potential contractors, the manner in which the assessment will be conducted, community monitoring and oversight of the assessment, and the eligibility of the contractor).

5.     Soil quality and air quality should be added to the list of conditions included in the assessment.

6.     In the instance that the assessment reveals environmental hazards, the recommendation is for public notification of the report findings within 3 business days as opposed to 5 business days.

7.     The Bill should require a detailed communication and outreach plan requiring robust and transparent strategies for multiple types of opportunities for community engagement (e.g. include social media engagement, automated phone calls, mailings, partnerships with Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners etc.)

8.     In regards to the DC Playground aspects of the Bill, a clear and consistent threshold for remediation should be determined as no level of lead exposure is safe.

9.     In the instance where a playground is found to have elevated lead levels in surfaces, turf, etc., accessibility to Blood Level Lead testing should be made free and available to children and youth (ages 1-18) who may have been exposed.

10. The “regulatory standards” in which synthetic fields and playgrounds are evaluated should be clear, transparent and research-based. Additionally “durable materials” should be clearly identified, available to the public and supported by credible research.


Salim Adofo

Single Member District 8C07

District of Columbia

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