BETHESDA, Md (WDVM) – The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition has long protested construction on River Road where they say hundreds of African Americans have been buried. As that construction continues, they’re also speaking out about the possible environmental impact.

Marsha Coleman Adebayo with the BACC says Bethesda Self-Storage recently built a pipeline to pump out water at the site. She says they don’t know what is in these deposits and if/when the pipeline was authorized.

The pipeline deposits water from the construction site directly into the nearby Willett Branch which feeds into the Potomac River.

“So for people who thought ‘Oh, this is just a little black cemetery, I don’t have to pay attention to it,’ now guess what’s happening? Now they are actually streaming whatever substances into the Willet Branch,” she said. “So now it concerns all of us.”

Adebayo says this construction has always had an impact on the descendants of those buried here, but now the issue could have potential impact on the greater community.

“I’m angry because if this was a confederate graveyard, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Candidate for County Council Brandy Brooks said to the protest group.

1784 Holdings & Bethesda Self-Storage are in charge of the construction site and oppose the BACC’s claims – saying the parcel of land is not located on top of the cemetery and they retain archeologists to oversee the site.

Adabayo said they will continue these protests and are requesting the county and state’s environmental departments to intervene and investigate the construction.