- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

The Army Corps of Engineers' dumping of toxic sludge into the Potomac River protects fish by forcing them to flee the polluted area and escape fishermen, according to an internal Environmental Protection Agency document.
The document says it is not a "ridiculous possibility" that a discharge "actually protects the fish in that they are not inclined to bite (and get eaten by humans) but they go ahead with their upstream movement and egg laying."
The House Resources Committee will hold a hearing today on the sludge dumping, first reported by The Washington Times, calling in top Cabinet officials to explain why they allow it.
"To suggest that toxic sludge is good for fish because it prevents them from being caught by man is like suggesting that we club baby seals to death to prevent them from being eaten by sharks. It's ludicrous," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on national parks, recreation and public lands.
"This is one of the most frightening examples of bureaucratic ineptitude and backward logic I have ever seen," Mr. Radanovich said.
A spokesman for the EPA was not available to comment on the document, which was included in the administrative record. The federal agency used that information to allow the dumpings through the C&O; Canal National Park and into the Potomac, a designated American Heritage river.
The Corps began the discharges in 1989 under a permit issued by the EPA, but the permit expired in 1993. The Corps was allowed to continue dumping under the expired permit until this year. A new permit was issued in March.
The National Wilderness Institute is suing the EPA to stop the discharges, which they say violate the Endangered Species Act. The EPA shared the document with the National Wilderness Institute as part of the court process. The author is not named.
The document instructs officials to focus less on the concerns of fishermen who say the sludge dumping is killing fish and more on the ability of the fish to complete their spawn without interference from the discharges.
The Corps dumps 200,000 tons of "toxic sludge" into the river every year in violation of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, according to the House committee.
William Colley, a retired environmental engineer who worked for the EPA for 29 years, said he was removed from leading the new permit process in 1999 after advocating eliminating the discharges.
"I had written the permit, public notice, draft fact sheet and had everything ready for the permit to be issued, and the effluent limits I developed for the permit were such they would have had to terminate the discharges," Mr. Colley told The Washington Times yesterday.
Mr. Colley took over the permit process in 1997 and said his predecessor also believed that the discharges should be stopped.
Mr. Colley said he made it clear "the discharges are illegal and violate the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations."
Mr. Radanovich yesterday sent a letter to the White House asking the administration to clean up the "environmental disaster" inherited from its predecessors.
"Some of the same EPA officials who decided not to forbid the dumping are still committed to giving special treatment to this plant. Their intransigence now threatens to link your administration to the indefensible notion that Washington, D.C., should be exempt from the environmental laws that are enforced throughout the country," Mr. Radanovich said in the letter.

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