- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The District planned improvements along the Anacostia River as part of Earth Day yesterday, while Montgomery County suggested new environmental protections for groundwater, which has been threatened by drought.
"I've made the environment a high priority because what's good for the city is good for the environment, and what's good for the environment is good for the city," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, who then ceremoniously planted a tree in a "rain garden."
Rain gardens catch the runoff from streets and storm sewers of the city and filter pollutants through the soil and garden plants before the water enters the river.
Then the mayor and Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, walked four blocks to sign an Adopt-A-Park agreement with the Earth Conservation Corps to turn 1.5 acres used as a waste yard into a strip of green plants along the Anacostia.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan yesterday announced a plan to more closely monitor the availability and quality of groundwater, on which about 10 percent of the county's 800,000 residents depend.
Despite recent rains, groundwater levels have not recovered from the current drought and another in 1999. Wells the only water source in many northern parts of the county recently reached record lows.
Mr. Duncan also asked the County Council to adopt a policy for implementing environmentally friendly practices throughout county government.
County environmental-protection director James Caldwell said some agencies have already made "green" changes, such as switching to water-based degreasing agents for maintaining the county's vehicle fleet.
But Mr. Caldwell said a more concerted effort is needed to expand green practices to public schools and to shared agencies, such as the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which also serve neighboring Prince George's County.
To conserve water and wildlife, county golf courses might move toward the more natural, less-manicured designs popular in England, Scotland and the Western United States. To decrease runoff and increase rainwater making its way to aquifers, some county buildings and parks may make greater use of gravel instead of asphalt for roads and parking lots.
"If we're going to be leaders, we have to get going and we have to clean our own doorstep first," Mr. Caldwell said.
Any new green requirements on homes and businesses would come after the county had shown the changes were reasonable and beneficial, he said.
If the council backs the policy, within 60 days the Department of Environmental Protection will publish a model for agencies to use in developing their own plans. And the department would track the success of the agencies in an annual report.
Council President Steven A. Silverman said he expects the council to support the initiative generally, but said that it's difficult to say what that will mean until more details are available.
If Montgomery adopts a comprehensive green policy, it would be among only a handful of counties in the nation to do so, said Abigail Freidman, county services program director for the D.C.-based National Association of Counties.
Also yesterday, Mr. Williams signed an agreement with the Sierra Club to enforce the city's 14-year-old recycling law. First, the city will educate owners of businesses, building complexes, apartments and condominiums about recycling legalities.
The District recycling-collection rate is 14 percent, compared to 45 percent in Montgomery County, Sierra Club President Jim Dougherty said.
The rain garden visited by Mr. Williams is one of three planned along the Anacostia, which the mayor predicted will one day be lined with trees, parks and greenery.
"Urban storm-water runoff is the major pollution," said Joan LeLacheur, president of the Anacostia River Business Coalition.
The first rain garden is a small triangle of land which was dug up and prepared yesterday by Anacostia High School students near South Capitol Street and Air Pegasus Heliport for police helicopters.
Earth Conservation Corps, a nonprofit organization, will work with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, Environmental Health Administration and Anacostia River Business Coalition on the latest Adopt-A-Park.
The park, which is set between concrete companies, was piled five stories high with dirt and other waste two years ago.

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