- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 22, 2002

EPA entree du jour: Potomac fish in toxic sludge sauce

Two years ago, when I worked at the Culpeper News in Culpeper, Va., I reported on the Environmental Protection Agency's attempts (largely successful) to persuade farmers to dump sludge on their land. Many county residents complained of health problems and contaminated wells, but EPA officials, together with officials from Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality, assured everyone it was safe. Some of the smaller farmers were so strapped that they preferred free fertilizer that they viewed as risky (sludge) to purchased fertilizer that didn't contain everything the Washington area flushed down its drains.

I understood the EPA's motivation for this to have developed out of two factors. First, the stuff couldn't be dumped in the oceans anymore, because that was doing too much damage. Second, the EPA couldn't require that sewage be processed in a way that didn't produce sludge because that would cost money and require innovative thinking. Now I'm bewildered. Why unload sludge on farmers when we could be using it to save more fish in the Potomac ("EPA says toxic sludge is good for fish," Page One, Wednesday)?


DAVID SWANSON

Cheverly




Though many of us may not have been aware of the Army Corps of Engineers' polluting practices in the Potomac River, the EPA's ridiculous conclusion that toxic sludge is good for fish should hardly come as a surprise. After all, the Bush administration has consistently shown that clean air, water and soil are not among its priorities.

Sadly, the Endangered Species Act and the plants and animals it protects have suffered the most from neglect. For example, the toxic sludge being dumped into the Potomac threatens the habitat and only spawning area of an endangered fish, the shortnose sturgeon.

Even more absurd than the EPA's claim is the very notion that anyone would be permitted to dump waste in our rivers. People fish, canoe, kayak and sail in the Potomac, which is an American Heritage River and a natural resource that we should use with respect.

Sadly, future generations may not be able to enjoy the Potomac without suffering deleterious health effects caused by the toxic sludge our government continues to dump into it.


ADAM KAPP

Arlington, Va.

Maryland prudently spends tobacco settlement booty

From the recent coverage of anti-tobacco spending featured in The Washington Times ("Tobacco settlement dollars languish," Metro, June 17), I was happy to learn that there are still people in Maryland willing to exercise some fiscal responsibility. I applaud and thank those county health officers who, rather than spending solely for the sake of meeting a deadline, returned unspent anti-tobacco funds to the state for future use.

The criticisms of aGeorge Washington University law professor who heads Action on Smoking and Health namely, that money was not being spent fast enough to put ads on television seem to indicate that the true intent for the anti-tobacco funds was something other than paying for well-conceived programs that actually improve health.

Some sanity did prevail in the General Assembly last year when we set requirements for justifying expenditures of anti-tobacco funds. Free colon cancer screening is now available to low-income individuals, and more curable cases are being caught as a result. But more outreach is needed to increase the number of people being screened.

As for simply rushing to spend money on anti-smoking ads, reports indicate that such ads are not nearly as effective as hoped for, especially those aimed at the young. Instead, why not take the time needed to come up with effective ads that might actually end up reducing the incidence of cancer?

Instead of recklessly spending without thinking, we must wisely shepherd our funds, regardless of their source. The state budget is a total wreck and running at a deficit because such recklessness has been permitted.

In the case of anti-tobacco spending, acting with deliberation may very well reduce the rate of cancer and improve health. Spending money just to meet a spending deadline won't.


ROBERT C. BALDWIN

Delegate, Legislative District 33

Maryland General Assembly

Odenton

Mixed herbs

The article "Agency to test safety of ephedra" (Nation, Wednesday) incorrectly states that the Ephedra Education Council is "backed by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA)." To discourage another possible mistake in the future, the Web site www.ephedrafacts.com is solely operated and owned by the Ephedra Education Council, not AHPA.

AHPA is not formally affiliated with the Ephedra Education Council. However, as both are membership organizations, they may have some members in common.


MICHAEL MCGUFFIN

President

American Herbal Products Association

Silver Spring, Md.

We weren't talking Turkey

The map titled "A sheltered life," which was published alongside "Iraqi Kurds fear talk of war," (World, Wednesday), wrongly depicts part of Anatolia as the "Kurdish Region." That section, within the southeastern region of the country, is within the borders of the Turkish Republic.

Turkey does not differentiate its citizens or regions according to ethnic background. Such depictions, therefore, are misleading and erroneous.


BULENT ERDEMGIL

Press counselor

Turkish Embassy

Washington

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