Federal grant money is helping the District pay for so-called "green street development" outside Dunbar High School. Crews are adding unique features to O Street NW to improve water management. The roadway will also serve as an outdoor science class for students.
It is one of seven projects getting funding from the EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, part of the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns initiative.
"Sustainable D.C. plan!" says Mayor Vincent Gray.
Speaking outside his alma mater Wednesday, Gray celebrated a $95,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust to build the green street next to the reconstructed Dunbar High.
"The best way to deal with our storm water is to really focus on trying to keep it from coming into contact with pollution in the first place," says Shawn M. Garvin, U.S. EPA regional administrator.
During a major downpour with one to two inches of rain, so-called bioretention cells on the new O Street NW are designed to capture more than 39,000 gallons of storm water.
The goal is to improve downstream environmental conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.
"So rather than all of that water rushing off into the street down the storm drains, that water will remain on-site and be filtered here," says Jana Davis, the executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
The new Dunbar High also includes many green features, like a geothermal heat pump and a photovoltaic array.
Principal Stephen Jackson says teachers will teach this technology to science classes.
"So it's important for them to learn about any and everything that would help save our environment," Jackson says.
Even though this is just one street, District law requires all major construction projects to incorporate similar green road design.
And in your yard, environmentalists say simply planting a tree could reduce storm water runoff.
Mayor Gray wants to increase the District's overall tree canopy from 35 percent to 40 percent.
"Trees are just one of those things that can collect up to 500 gallons a year of storm water. They reduce the heat island effect and they're beautiful," says Keith Anderson, the director of D.C. Department of the Environment.
The EPA and Chesapeake Bay Trust funding totals $400,000 for D.C. and six other municipalities across the mid-Atlantic, including Prince George's County, Bladensburg, and Richmond.
Meanwhile, Mayor Gray says Dunbar is on schedule to re-open to students and staff in time for the fall semester.