Some Oxon Hill residents say they are living a nightmare.
With homes close to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction site -- a $2.56 billion project not expected to be completed until 2011 -- they complain that dust, noise and mysterious vibrations are robbing them of precious sleep and making their daylight hours extremely unpleasant.
"I feel anger, and I feel frustration," said Vera Green, a 17-year resident of North Potomac Vista subdivision, which borders the Potomac River site.
"We've lost the enjoyment of our home," she said. "You can't go out. I used to garden all the time. Now, when my husband mows the grass and I garden, we have to have masks, earplugs in our ears and goggles on."
Neighbors say they've complained for months to local officials and Wilson Bridge authorities about problems but have received no real help.
The officials, while acknowledging some of the problems, say they have offered all kinds of compensation, including overnights in hotels and other amenities.
But the residents are unimpressed.
"I feel like nobody's listening," Green said. "We've been given the statement that this thing is so big, nobody wants to touch it. The politicians won't get involved. It's horrendous."
The Greens, who live on Alexandria Drive, are next to a gritty stretch of riverfront land dominated by a noisy concrete plant used to construct the new bridge's foundations. Since November 2001, residents have endured its loud daytime "pours," when concrete is mixed at the plant, then conveyed by barge across the water to the bridge construction site.
The pours typically start about 6 or 7 a.m. and last into the afternoon. Sometimes, they last as many as 36 hours, occasions when bridge officials have paid for neighbors to stay in hotels if they wish.
But that plant isn't the only aggravation, Vera Green said.
"It's the trucks that move back and forth, load the dirt and unload it," she said. "It's the earthmovers. When they move, your whole house shakes."
In late January, a new problem began. "There's a relatively high-frequency vibration that starts up in the middle of the night and goes till about 8:30 a.m.," said retired engineer Russell Hawthorne, a 25-year resident of nearby Melmara Drive.
"It shakes the house. It shakes our bed. I've been forced to sleep on a foam pad to dampen the vibration, but sleep is impossible. Our nerves are shot. We're almost to the point where do we take medication or not?"
Hawthorne's wife, Marcia, said her husband is a "changed person" since the vibrations began -- vibrations that he is convinced emanate from the concrete plant.
"Until then, we tried to not listen to the noise," she said. "We tried to deal with it. We'd put on the radio or TV or something else. We figured, okay, because we love our house."
One frustrating night, Russell Hawthorne called the police about vibration.
"They came out and said, "Oh, that's the Wilson Bridge project,' " he said. " 'We can't go there unless somebody's being murdered.' "
Another incessant problem has been dirt and dust kicked up by earthmovers and trucks hauling concrete ingredients to the site.
"The dust is too much," said Debra Rana, a Melmara Drive resident who moved into her home three years ago with no clue about a concrete plant in the neighborhood. She said that her family has felt the house shake and that the weird vibrations are disturbing her husband's sleep.
Although the Greens have covered their screened porch with plastic, orange-tinted dust still manages to coat tables, chairs and other surfaces.
"Our house is the closest to the plant," Ernest Green said. "It's impossible for us to keep our windows open. It's been so bad it was like a sand dune off the Sahara."
Nerve-shot local residents were also recently, if briefly, subjected to something called the "dynamic compaction process," which involved a crane repeatedly dropping a heavy weight to the ground to firm the earth for two drainage pipes 61/2 feet in diameter.
"When they started that compaction process, we were getting an earthquake like every five minutes," Marcia Hawthorne said. "A lot of people started calling and complaining. They stopped it because we complained so badly."
But though the earthquakes have at least ceased, for now, and another compaction method is being used, some homeowners say the earth-moving is taking a physical toll on their homes, which sell for anywhere from $200,000 to $350,000.
"Vibrations from the batch plant and the earthmovers and the earth compaction are causing cracks," said Vera Green, showing a visitor fractures in a living room wall and archway.
Norine M. Walker, a Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project liaison between affected residents and the project, said bridge officials have not turned a deaf ear to neighbors' complaints.
"We're definitely listening," said Walker, adding that after receiving complaints about noise, the project offered to build a sound barrier behind the homes, a suggestion residents declined. "We log complaints we get into this office, and then we try to respond.
"Unfortunately, with a concrete batch plant in that neighborhood, there will be some impacts." So far, she said, no claims have been filed by residents that show damage.
She also said homeowners were warned at the project's outset to photograph their homes before construction activity.
"If you show me a crack today, but you don't have documentation of what it looked like before, how do I know that crack has increased in size by what's happening?" she asked.
The current phase of foundation work is to end in April, and the "movable" batch plant should be dismantled by July, Walker said.
Neighbors worry that the next contractor on the project will also need concrete and may opt to reconstruct the plant on the same site.
"They're going to need another batch plant," said Vera Green. "But whether they rent it from this company or tear it down, put it somewhere else. . . . Give us a rest."
The neighborhood has at least one escape: Former Alexandria Drive resident Denise Stanback sold her house in September and moved to Glenn Dale.
"The noise was a nightmare," she said . "I'd go through different rooms in the house and couldn't get away from the noise."
Walker said: "We recognize that they're at their wits end between the concrete batching starting early in the morning and this vibration. . . . We just are not able to stop the project."