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DC Dirt

October 1, 2011

City Paper had an article a few weeks ago about dirt in DC – what type it is, where it goes during construction projects, and what we sometimes find in it. Check this out:

“Here’s the lay of the land: The rocky Piedmont’s rolling uplands extend west of Rock Creek all the way past Great Falls to the Appalachian Mountains. The coastal plain sprawls to the east, with sandier soils that meander into the tidal reaches of the Potomac River. The meeting point of the two zones is the most fertile ground for evidence of human occupation, hiding the remains of people who ate fish and deer that stayed close to the stream. The rest of the District is pockmarked silt and clay deposits left over from the last Ice Age. Burial sites show up under the Whitehurst Freeway and evidence of kilns has appeared on the campus of St. Elizabeths.”

When Americans started to build their new capitol, we filled in parts of local rivers in order to gain more space for the growing city and complex of federal buildings. As the article points out, the Ellipse in front of the White House is basically a “trash dump in a stream valley.”

Humans have always modified the landscapes they inhabit, of course. But it’s always amazing to me what ecological engineers we are, for better or for worse.

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