- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The bad news is that the Army Corps of Engineers is piping toxic sludge into the Potomac river. The even worse news is that the corps maintains that it is doing so legally. These people are friends of neither endangered species nor national parks.
Yesterday, Virginia Sens. John Warner and George Allen requested immediate hearings into the corps' seven-year practice of pumping millions of tons of smelly sludge into the Potomac. It's about time. As noted on this page nearly a month ago, the sludge begins its loathsome journey at the Dalecarlia Reservoir Water Treatment Plant north of MacArthur Blvd. where it is pumped into the Washington Aqueduct. After passing through C&O; Canal National Historic Park, it terminates in the Potomac River, near the habitat of the endangered short-nosed sturgeon.
Enough sludge, 1,500 times the normal legal allowance, oozes and foams into the Potomac enough to fill 15 dump trucks each day of the year. The reason that the sludge is being pumped into the Potomac instead of being trucked elsewhere is that Georgetown residents don't want noisy disruptions from dump trucks going through their streets.
The sludge contains numerous known fish toxins, including alum, chlorine and choloramine. Audrey Hudson reports elsewhere in The Washington Times today that fishermen believe that the dumping has greatly decreased fish populations. Despite that, and despite Mr. Allen's immediate cease and desist request, the corps has no immediate plans to do so, thanks to an astonishing legal line from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA has apparently granted a fishy exemption with an indefinite expiration date to the corps, since its official license to produce endangered fishy corpses expired in 1994. Issuance of a new permit would probably terminate the dumping, but, according to the National Wilderness Institute (NWI), the process has been undermined by political pressure.
In the meantime, the corps hopes that, failing another extension from the EPA, it can simply persuade the Interior Department that the short-nosed sturgeon is not endangered after all. That tactic worked with the previously-thought extinct Northern Virginia well amphibole, whose listed endangerment could have curtailed construction of the troubled Wilson Bridge.
If the dumping is to continue, there is no reason not to do this in broad daylight. After all, it could be turned into a terrific tourist venue: Visitors could go to Capitol Hill to see laws being made, to the Supreme Court to see laws being interpreted and then to Canal Park to see the foaming black markers of laws being ignored.


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