By Dick Platt, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
At a city council hearing last month, officials once again clearly demonstrated they are listening to the developers, not residents. Their vote to approve the conditions for a development special use permit for the redevelopment of the Robinson Terminal North site blatantly shows they value protecting developer profits over the wellbeing and safety of the residents of that area and Alexandria citizens at large.
The Bogle Chemical Company operated on the Robinson Terminal North site for almost 51 years, during which time it became contaminated with arsenic trioxide, sodium arsenite, 2,4,5-T — the chemical in Agent Orange — and Silvex, all highly toxic chemicals. That contaminated soil must be excavated during construction according to the plans of the developers, CityInterests Inc. and Rooney Properties.
As stated in the property’s development special use permit, 51,500 cubic yards of contaminated, toxic soil will be excavated to develop an underground garage. While barging is a safe, viable and affordable method of transporting that hazardous material from the site, the developer has refused to use barging on the Potomac River because it would increase their construction costs.
To accommodate the developer, city staff backed away from their initial requirement to barge the material and now city council has approved the use of trucking that toxic, contaminated soil through the streets and neighborhoods of Alexandria, right on the very streets, sidewalks and playgrounds where our children play and our pets roam.
How many trucks? At an average of 11 cubic yards per truckload, 4,682 truck trips will be required to remove the contaminated soil — 4,682 empty-truck trips in and 4,682 full-truck trips out means around 9,300 trips that can expose our neighborhoods and their citizens to toxic, hazardous waste. One can only estimate the increased toll on city infrastructure from that amount of truck traffic. All of this is in the interest of protecting developer profits over ensuring public safety and preserving public infrastructure.
The primary role of government is the protection of its citizens and their property. Developer profits should not be more important than public safety, nor should the citizens of Alexandria suffer an additional tax burden when it comes to fixing streets and other city infrastructure damaged by unnecessary overuse.
This is not a case of Not In My Back Yard: the city needs development, but it needs responsible development, not development motivated by maximizing profit and influenced by campaign contributions where developers can come in, cherry-pick property and strip-mine the city of its precious asset, land.
The Robinson Terminal North project approval clearly points to irresponsible city councilors, who have fostered an unhealthy relationship with developers and their campaign contributions and have turned a deaf ear to the citizens of Alexandria.
The majority of people have stopped attending council meetings and expressing their opinion. The sense is: “Why bother? They don’t listen and are just going to do what they want anyway.”
Don’t wait to be the next victim. Hold city council accountable and make them put the interests of residents ahead of developer profits.