Our View: Industry not acting neighborly


Alexandria residents share their living space with some irksome industry: The polluting generating station on the Potomac River and the potentially explosive ethanol facility in the West End to name two especially imposing neighbors.

On Sunday, a pipe broke at a Pepco facility in Old Town, spilling several thousand gallons of mineral oil that was cooling transformers at the energy station.

The Pepco station is not inherently irksome, but their slow response was. Ideally, no one would live next to an energy facility, but we need electricity.  

Industrial occupants have a right to be here. As law-abiding businesses, the city government has no control over ousting them, despite some success in regulating their actions. No, the citys hands are tied tight but the industrial neighbors are not. They handle sensitive materials and therefore have a responsibility to exercise the control they have over their products.

Its mind-blowing that Pepco did not notify agencies of an oil spill reaching the Potomac River and permeating Alexandrias soil near the plant until several hours after the fact. Pepcos spokesman was unable to tell the Times exactly what time the spill occurred apparently that piece of the investigation requires more research but it was within the first few hours of Sunday morning, according to multiple sources.

The Alexandria Fire Department was not notified until 10:33 a.m. on Sunday. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management found out at about 9 a.m. The Coast Guard, which oversees the water cleanup, did not hear about several thousand gallons entering the river until after noon on Sunday.

In 2009, an ethanol spill at Norfolk Southern Corporations facility went unreported to the Alexandria Fire Department. The AFD had no clue of the severity, because they were left out of the loop, despite the facilitys close proximity to an elementary school, Metro station, the Beltway and two housing developments.

Pepcos spill was not as serious, or dangerous, but the principle remains: if you are going to live here, respect your neighbors. 

When it snows, you shovel your walk for the betterment of the community. No, the city cannot kick industry to the curb, so places like Pepco have to do whats under their control to mitigate negative effects on their neighborhood.