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Wash Battling Dark Force Attacking The Nation’s History

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“… there is no known permanent solution …”


By Jack Davis  /

A creeping blight has struck Washington, D.C., darkening the image of some of America’s most revered historical figures.

Historical revisionism gone rampant? A new wave of political correctness aimed at rewriting the Founding Fathers?

Neither. What the experts call a biofilm and looks to the non-expert like a dry form of slime is covering many of the monuments in the nation’s capital.

So far, the National Park Service is clueless about how to fight back against the slow darkening of the gleaming memory of America’s history.

“It’s called slime, but when you touch it, it’s dry; it doesn’t come off on your fingers,” noted CBS News’ Mark Albert after visiting the monuments.

Efforts to address the darkening of the roof of the Jefferson Memorial have been ongoing since 2014.

“The increased presence of biofilm presents a new challenge in the care of memorials throughout the National Mall, particularly at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial,” said Gay Vietzke, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks. “We are continuing to study biofilm and research treatment methods, and look forward to restoring the dome to its original luster while ensuring its long-term preservation.”

Biofilm on the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. Credit: National Park Service

But studying the problem is not the same as solving it.

“Treatment of biofilm is difficult, as there is no known permanent method for removing it, and we have to ensure that any treatment must not do further damage to the soft marble of the memorial nor encourage further growth,” said Catherine Dewey, chief of resource management for National Mall and Memorial Parks.

While the Park Service and its experts try to come up with the answer, the problem is spreading, having touched the Lincoln and Washington memorials and also gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.

The biggest problem is that over time, the stone used in the memorials has weathered. As rain, hail and storms have worn away the once-smooth surface, tiny pits emerge that serve as the starting point for the biofilm to grow.

Cleaning alone is not enough. However, chemicals used must not add to the damage time has wrought. Chemicals must also not be hazardous to the millions of visitors a year who come to the monuments.

“It is very frustrating. And it’s one of those things the more we look into it, the more questions we ask, the more we come up with all sorts of theories and ideas, but to date there is no known permanent solution to get rid of biofilm,” said Mike Litterst of the National Park Service.

Litterst said he is determined to stop the slow and steady advance of the slime.

“We have absolutely no intention of allowing nature to take its course and cover a gloriously white marble rotunda with a blackened biofilm,” he said.

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