- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

The U.S. Corps of Engineers is being called before a congressional panel to explain why it is dumping tons of sludge into the Potomac River.
The sediment far exceeds the limit allowed by many states, and critics say this is to blame for a diminishing fish population.
First reported by The Washington Times, the discharges contain 40,000 to 70,000 milligrams of suspended solids per liter, and in one location is piped through the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. Many states are only allowed to discharge 30 milligrams of suspended solids per liter.
"We should all be very concerned about toxic dumping into one of our national parks, not to mention the Potomac River, a national heritage river," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican and chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on national parks, recreation and public lands.
"It's particularly troubling that this activity is happening right here in our back yard," Mr. Radanovich said.
The Corps dumps the sediment from the Washington Aqueduct under a permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. Officials from that agency have also been called to testify before the panel tomorrow.
"The black, smelly discharge has coated the banks of the river and the canal, apparently killing aquatic wildlife and plant life," said the panel's hearing notice.
"The sludge has also coated other waterways throughout the C&O; National Historic Park. Park visitors have complained about both the sludge's presence and its strong smell," the notice said.
The sludge is being dumped at a site above Chain Bridge and two sites above Georgetown.
The National Wilderness Institute has notified the Corps it intends to sue for violation of the Clean Water Act.
"We're encouraged Congress is taking these steps and hope it will cause these agencies to quit defending an indefensible practice, and stop the environmental harm that would not be tolerated anywhere else," said Rob Gordon, NWI director.
The permit issued by the EPA expired in 1994 but the Corps is permitted to dump indefinitely unless the EPA sets standards for the discharges or issues a new permit. Thomas Jacobus, chief of the Washington Aqueduct, says it is "operating exactly in terms of the existing permit" in dumping unlimited amounts of the sentiment, which contains alum.
He has, however, acknowledged that the water used to flush the sediment from the holding tank to the river contains chlorine, which is harmful to fish eggs. The sludge is not believed to hurt human health.
Agency officials say they have been studying whether the dumps pose environmental risks, but have not explained why the dumping was allowed to continue for seven years while its safety is, as they say, undetermined.

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