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September 23, 1998

Getting the Lead Out

Dear Neighbors:

Did anyone catch the Washington Post Sunday Opinion package on the District? (Someone must have caught it. I hear it's going around.) I nearly dropped out of my chair when I read the stories. The articles propose that city residents sue Congress for "neglect" because it is not assuring the welfare of District residents. For several years now--for as long as I've been covering the District--the Post has reported scandal after scandal in the performance of the District government that has absolutely nothing to do with the level of funding. Yet, the authors conclude that we're dying of Congressional fiscal neglect. I'm glad my doctor doesn't diagnose like that.

Remember: Just because many people believe that Marion Barry's inept and corrupt stewardship of the city since the late 1970s is the root of our city's problem doesn't mean that it's not true.


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Jeffrey Itell


Lead Alert

Caren Ginsberg wrote that her neighbor has a lead paint problem; so do most DC residences. If your house was built before 1975, it has lead paint. This is crucial information for those engaged in any kind of renovation work, particularly pregnant women or households with children under five.

We found out the hard way when we had our daughter tested for lead at nine months. We did so after hearing Richard Stapleton, author of "Lead is a Silent Hazard" (an excellent source book on the problem and its remedies) on NPR. We had no chipping paint, but our house is 125 years old, so we thought it would be a good precautionary measure. We were alarmed to discover that her lead level was 25 ppm -- anything over 10 is considered dangerous.

We finally traced the problem to our soil. We had two big, shaggy dogs who were bringing in dirt, which our daughter was getting on her hands, which were nearly always in her mouth. Regular cleaning does not pick up lead; it often disperses it. Anyway, we found ways to deal with it: we laid ground cover, sent one dog packing, shaved the other one, started frequent hand washing, frequent cleaning with trisodium phosphate (TSP, available at paint stores), and fed our baby a diet high in iron and calcium. At two years old, her level is down to 8 and she shows no signs of lead-related problems.

This is a long, personal story with some lessons: If you live in the District, get your child tested at six months. Don't scrape any paint or use heat guns. Clean with TSP (including window wells, a storage bin for lead dust) and wash hands a lot.

For more info, contact the DC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 727-9870, director Ella Witherspoon (for free testing), DC Coalition to End Lead Poisoning at 301-731-8530, ask for Linda Lewis (for list of lead-savvy contractors and other info), and the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (for a variety of resources).

Andrea Carlson



I went to Norton's town meeting on crime and can give D.C. story readers my impressions. Basically, most of the two hour meeting was spent hearing from crime fighting bigwigs (DC Police Chief Soulsby, US Park Police Chief Langston, US Attorney Holder, and some other guy from the FBI) about their specific efforts to battle crime. Soulsby told us how he will spend the extra $15 million he has received from the Federal Government (I thought the purpose of the meeting was to give citizenry a chance to express how they would like to see the money spent, but clearly I was wrong). Folks asked a bunch of questions, most of which were moronic. I asked why some of the $15 million couldn't be spent bringing the Park Police back to the 5th district. Norton said only the President could make that decision, but that she might ask the White House to do so. One of my neighbors asked Norton if a cohesive federal intervention plan could be legislated, and she said she would start working on that.

Personally, I think things in DC are so bad that the extra $15 million ain't going to make that much difference. My husband personally located four stolen cars in our neighborhood (Bloomingdale) and have had a hard time getting the police to respond. They are too busy with stabbings and beatings to deal with property-related crimes...

Vicki Leonard-Chambers


Bottle Deposits

Marcus has clearly missed my point. While I prefer it when my side wins in an election, I do not feel that a loss undermines the democratic process. Both the case of Rhodes Tavern and the case of the bottle bill indicate how easy it is for anyone with money in this city to either sway the election or have its results voided. Marcus may feel our streets are at least as clean as those of Des Moines, in which case I pity the folks in Des Moines, but that is irrelevant to the bottle deposit issue. What's really at issue is cost shifting. The *taxpayers* pay for recycling; the *container users* pay for bottle deposits.

Stephanie "One in 35,000" Faul


Marcus Rosenbaum wrote that bottle deposits are a "real pain". I, too, have lived in a state with bottle deposits and definitely did not share his experience. On the contrary, I thought it a much better system than just recycling. When you have bottle deposits, you not only have the incentive of keeping the planet clean to return your bottles and cans to a proper facility, but you have the added incentive of monetary gain. If you personally choose not to return your bottles and cans to get the deposit back, you can still recycle them or else give them away to some school "bottle drive", which will collect the money for the bottles and use it for equipment or field trips or whatever. In addition, bottle deposits provide an alternative to panhandling for homeless people: they can collect the bottles and cans that everyone else throws in the garbage or on the streets and turn them in to earn some money. Thus there is actually a higher rate of bottle and can recycling than with recycling alone. Personally, I've always thought it would be a great idea if DC, MD and VA would start such a program.

Sarah Lanning


The City paper quality of life posting reminded me that I noticed a lot of the dead trees in the Van Ness area have been spray painted with an orange dot. Does this mean the city is actually thinking about going around and cutting down the unusually large amount of dead trees soon? or is it some new fangled traffic sign, (Watch Out For Dead Tree Falling Branches). Since we are in such a cash crisis you would think the city could make some cash by selling what they cut as firewood. There are enough dead trees in DC to interest Georgia Pacific. Maybe they could even give the wood to DC schools to heat the classrooms as they probably still have wood burning boilers they are so old. Anyway.... Just a suggestion. Does anybody know if they are actually going to cut some of these old trees down. I don't even want to ask about replanting.

David Hunter


Feds 1 Clinton 0

How nice to see the Feds reverse, on a timely basis, a dreadful mistake by the Administration. That mistake- exempting D.C. from the time provisions of the new Welfare Legislation. The results of exempting D.C. would have been disastrous. D.C. can neither afford the costs of not to comply nor would the district have been able to handle the major influx of Welfare recipients from surrounding venues who will enforce the time limits on collecting benefits. Good move Congress.

Ed T. Barron


Traffic (eventually)

What's good in DC? Cafe Delux. Great neighborhood restaurant. Actually see my neighbors there.

What's bad in DC? The insane traffic planning (lack of?) that ensures you have the opportunity to stop at *every* light you encounter.

Does anyone know a good route (by car) to get from about 13th & H St. to Georgetown University during rush hour in under a half an hour? Getting across town on Eye or K St. is painful; Mass Ave. is a mess with construction at Dupont Circle and the bridge; M St. is spotty, not to mention the dangerous holes in the street; and R St. east of Conn. will destroy your alignment. I've tried several routes, but haven't managed to find one that doesn't involve sitting stuck in traffic. Am willing to travel a round-about route so long as traffic flows.

S. Gallagher

---- Car Inspections

Here's a surprise (for once, for the better): I found out last week that car inspections are good for two years now. Of course, it could mean more pollution from cars that would otherwise get caught, but it's an improvement.

Cassandra Goodell


More Information Than You'll Ever Need About Traveling to New York

I've taken Greyhound, Peter Pan, and Amtrak. Lately I've been taking Peter Pan. I find it less depressing than Greyhound or Amtrak (no, I'm not sure exactly why I say that, or even if I would have the same opinion if you ask me tomorrow), and it is cheaper than Amtrak. All three have web sites:,, and

Jim Kingdon


The last time I took the bus to NYC the OW fare was $25 -- about one-third the Amtrack fare. Besides being cheap, the bus is quick (about 4 hours to NYC).

The choice was to go Greyhound or Peter Pan (the terminal for which is located in a parking lot across the street from the Greyhound terminal). I have preferred to go Peter Pan because their buses tend to be newer (without years of cigarette tar buildup on the interior) and have fewer passengers (usually they have been less than half full), and the one stop they make along the way -- in Baltimore -- was at a terminal that is right off I-95, so it was a quick stop (whereas Greyhound would go all the way into downtown Baltimore, although now, I think Greyhound/Trailways has moved to the same Baltimore terminal). Also in Peter Pan's favor -- competition from them is what pushed the fare down to $25 in the first place, and they promise to show a free movie (which may or may not be a good thing) on some of the trips.

Kris Herbst


I've taken the Peter Pan bus to NY many times and have had no problems. It's about $25 bucks each way and you get a free (albeit bad) movie, except on Sunday. It's not a comfortable as the train, but if money's an issue, you can't beat the price.

Martin Lynds


Peter Pan bus lines were recommended to me on my jaunt to NYC.....cheaper (by a couple of bucks) that Greyhound, CLEAN, they even show a movie on board en route...about a 4 to 4 1/2 hour ride, pleasant. Right across the way from the Greyhound bus station, so not out-of-the way by bus station standards. Have fun in the Big Apple!

Vera Zlidar

[I've culled other postings about Peter Pan. For more info, see (That's a joke url.) Jeff]



I'm looking for a good periodontist. (The Washington Consumer Checkbook article on dentists listed very few and the one with the best rating was, I think, in Potomac.) Any recommendations?

Cynthia Harrison


Direct Satellite TV This is a search for info from those net buddies that have Direct Satellite TV. I'm interested in dumping D.C. Cable Vision and can get the local channels via my own antenna. I'd like to hear from anyone who uses direct TV to learn the good and the bad news about this system. Is the reception uniformly good? Is there a wide variety of decent programming in the basic package? What's the downside of Direct TV? If you have one send me the good news and bad news.

Ed T. Barron


Fun Fall outings:

Biking to Mt. Vernon. It's about 17 miles from the Mall in DC (that's 34 round trip miles for you 'new math' students who don't have a handy calculator). Beautiful easy ride most of the way (except for the last mile or so up hill, i.e. the "Mt." in Mt. Vernon). Fun diversion: watching the planes land at National.

Ken Levinson


OK, I'll bite. Here are three favorite fall outings of ours:

1) The Beach--we go most Columbus Day weekends. There's nothing like a Fall bike ride from Rehoboth/Dewey to Bethany or OC and back to justify an Irish coffee in front of a fall fire at Rusty Rudder. If your timing is good you can watch a harvest moon rise from the sea. Bird watching is good this time of year too. We also like Blackwater Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge. You'll see herons, egrets, muskrat, eagles, and various ducks. Some nice B&B's in and around Cambridge. Also good bike riding (it's FLAT). Perhaps better still is Chincoteague, where you get the beach, MAJOR wildlife/birds, and the oyster fest if you're interested on Columbus Weekend.

2) We spent a Veteran's Day at Cheat River Lodge near Elkins WVA and had a great time. It's a long drive (3 hrs?) the last on hilly windy roads. Take some friends and rent one of their 6 cottages (lodge is bland). Ours was nicely decorated, cozy log cabin with franklin stove, two bdrs and loft, and best of all hot tub sunk in back porch, which was about 20 feet from the Cheat River (more of a lovely stream at that point). Stars were fabulous. Lodge is just on edge of George Washington Memorial Forest , a beautiful place to drive and hike through. It even has a great restaurant. Not too far are Seneca Rocks and other great hiking spots. Doesn't come cheaply, but filling all the bedrooms will lower your price.

3) If Blackwater sounds appealing but you're stuck in town, you can get away by visiting Huntley Meadows Wetlands area in Fairfax. It's off Route 1 beyond Mt. Vernon. It's free, has a planked walk throughout. Go early.

4) For more of the above, we also like the Northern Neck of Virginia. Also a long drive 3+ hours. We've stayed in a cottage outside Whitestone, just where Rappahannock meets Bay. It's lovely area surrounding very small friendly town. For fancier moments, you can drive to Irvington and eat a Binnacle near Tides Inn.

Judie Guy


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Jeffrey Itell


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