Historic Catholic Cemetery is the Site of a Groundbreaking Project to Address Stormwater Runoff Pollution in the Nation’s Capital

President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy and Director of D.C. Department of Energy and Environment join Cardinal Wuerl at a dedication of the innovative urban conservation project at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, May 7, 2018, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington joined Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, and Tommy Wells, director of the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) to dedicate the new rain garden at Mount Olivet Cemetery in northeast Washington. The recently-installed green infrastructure located in the historic 85-acre cemetery is thought to be the first collaboration of its kind between an environmental conservation organization and the Catholic Church to address the challenge of urban stormwater pollution. The project is especially unique because the site generates Stormwater Retention Credits (SRCs) that are being sold on the District of Columbia’s SRC credit market.

Following a tour of the new infrastructure, Cardinal Wuerl, Mr. Tercek, and Mr. Wells joined John Spalding, president and CEO of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington, and Cheryl Tyiska, manager of Mount Olivet Cemetery in delivering remarks to acknowledge the new project and the collaboration that led to it.

“Our cemeteries are considered sacred ground because it is here that we bury our dead in the hope of the resurrection,” said Cardinal Wuerl as he began his remarks. “But cemeteries also serve the living. We take particular care of the grounds, so that those who come to visit, to remember and to pray for their dead do so in beautiful, peaceful, serene surroundings.” We are challenged by Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, “to protect our common home,” the cardinal continued, which “includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development.” Calling the green infrastructure work done at Mount Olivet as an “actual, practical example” of what the Holy Father called us to do in his encyclical, the cardinal praised the collaboration. Cardinal Wuerl concluded his remarks with a blessing that included the sprinkling of holy water on the rain garden.

The new green infrastructure will capture stormwater that would otherwise flow off cemetery roads and into Hickey Run, one of the Anacostia River’s tributaries the Anacostia River. More than three billion gallons of stormwater runoff and sewage flow into D.C.’s local rivers each year, making it the fastest growing source of water pollution both in the Chesapeake Bay and worldwide. By replacing or retrofitting primarily unused access roads within the historic cemetery with water-retaining green infrastructure such as grass, flower beds, shrubs and trees, Mount Olivet Cemetery has already significantly reduced its impervious surface area.

The green infrastructure site also generates Stormwater Retention Credits (SRC) that are being sold on the District of Columbia’s SRC credit market that has been set up by the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment. The credit program allows private developers to meet a portion of their stormwater retention requirements through projects that retain stormwater elsewhere in the city. For more information on the Stormwater Retention Market and the financing of the project at Mount Olivet Cemetery, please visit: http://www.naturevesttnc.org/business-lines/green-infrastructure/dc-green-infrastructure/