Groups call for Percentage of Stadium Revenues to Fund River Restoration

WASHINGTON (October 28, 2004) - The proposed major league baseball stadium on the shores of the Anacostia River should be built using state-of-the-art environmental design techniques that minimize water pollution, reduce waste and save energy, an alliance of conservation groups said today at a District of Columbia City Council hearing. The groups also called on the District to dedicate a percentage of stadium revenues for a trust fund to restore the Anacostia, one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

"If the District is serious about revitalizing the Anacostia waterfront and wants to build a baseball stadium, it's got to be green," said Nancy Stoner, director of the Clean Water Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Anything less would be death sentence for a river that is already in critical condition."

Specifically, the groups said the new stadium should meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, which cover a range of issues, including access to mass transit, stormwater runoff, landscaping and exterior design, lighting, heating and cooling, ventilation, alternative energy sources, recycling, and building materials. (For more information on LEED, go to The groups stressed that managing water pollution is key.

"Given the state of the river, the design of the building and accompanying parking lots has to minimize stormwater runoff and wastewater pollution," said Gwyn Jones of the Sierra Club's Washington Chapter. "Fortunately, we have the technical know-how to deal with this problem, and some newer stadiums around the country have done a good job. We can, too."

Sports stadiums use a lot of water. For example, when more than 75,000 New England Patriot fans cram into Gillette Stadium on a game day, they can go through 600,000 to 1 million gallons. To minimize use, the developers built an on-site wastewater treatment facility that recirculates as much as 80 percent of the wastewater generated. The system collects wastewater, treats it, and then pumps it in the form of "gray" water to the thousands of toilets and urinals in the stadium. The $300-million stadium, which was completed in May 2002, also features timing devices that automatically shut down nonessential lighting after hours to conserve energy. (For more information on Gillette Stadium, click here or read about the stadium's engineering here.)

"Building a green stadium initially would cost only marginally more than building a conventional facility, and would save money in the long run," said Andy Fellows of Clean Water Action. "Building green is the financially smart thing to do." Fellows pointed out that a 2003 study by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a state development agency, found the average extra cost to construct a green building is slightly less than 2 percent. Meanwhile, green buildings offer financial benefits that conventional buildings do not, the report found, including energy and water savings, reduced waste, improved indoor air quality, and lower operations and maintenance costs.

The conservation groups also called for the creation of a trust fund from stadium revenues to help pay for restoring the Anacostia River. "Most Anacostia neighborhood residents won't have the money to buy season tickets to see our new baseball team," said Thomas Arrasmith of the Anacostia Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee, "but everyone in Anacostia and across the city would benefit from a clean river. Our goal is a fishable and swimmable river, and the people of this city deserve no less."

Cleaning up the Anacostia River is the central issue that will determine the success or failure of Mayor Williams' plan for developing the waterfront, said Robert Boone, director of the Anacostia Watershed Society. "We need to overhaul the antiquated sewer systems in the District and Maryland suburbs that are spewing raw sewage into the Anacostia and its tributaries," he said. "And we have to significantly reduce stormwater runoff from the entire watershed drainage basin, which washes oil, grease, pet waste and other toxic pollutants directly into the river through storm drains and gutters."

"A new baseball stadium on the Anacostia River may jumpstart revitalization of an area that really needs it, but there's still one major problem - the river smells," said Doug Siglin, director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Anacostia River Initiative. "Especially after a heavy rainfall, the river smells like sewage. Unless the baseball team wants to hand out air fresheners to every fan, we better do something to clean up the river."