The New York Times Washington Bureau reporter Felicity Barringer, left, covered some of AAEA's early work on the Anacostia River. The late Damu Smith actually recruited AAEA President Norris McDonald to accompany him in order to show Ms. Barringer some toxic spots along a tributary to the river. The article, "In Capital, No. 2 River Is a Cause," was published on December 1, 1991.
"They spent about $1 billion to clean up the Potomac," said Norris McDonald, director of the three-year-old African American Environmentalist Association. "Virtually none of that money went to the Anacostia." So Mr. McDonald, who worked for the Friends of the Earth before forming the group to combat the urban pollution that affects large numbers of blacks, has tried to explain the relationship between the muddy river and their lives.
"You have to relate it to things people can understand," Mr. McDonald said. "You have to show them where the storm sewer flows into the river, how the sewer overflows come out there in storms, and how the half can of Ajax or Drano they pour down the drain can end up in the fish they catch and feed their families."
"There are lots of places where we could get teams of people out, get kids out, and clean up the refuse," Mr. McDonald said. "We have to make people understand." Their Government, too. "The powers that be that have worked on pollution have worked on the Potomac but not on the Anacostia," he said. No officials who could be reached, from the District of Columbia government, the Council of Governments or Congress, disagreed with Mr. McDonald's assertion.