- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Preliminary analysis of sludge being dumped into the Potomac River by the Army Corps of Engineers shows high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, copper, zinc, nickel and selenium.
The Corps has maintained that the dumpings, first reported by The Washington Times, contained only one metal aluminum.
The private laboratory tests were conducted at the request of Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican and leading critic of the Potomac dumping by the Corps. It reveals a who's who list of toxic metals.
"While I am not surprised, I continue to find myself appalled by this practice and the federal agencies that defend and permit it," Mr. Radanovich said. "These preliminary tests confirm our hypothesis that there are dangerous quantities of metals in these discharges."
The samples were collected from two discharge points in March and May. The amount by which the pollutants would exceed water quality standards depends upon the degree to which the river dilutes the discharges at each point.
The limited testing results show higher levels of pollutants than allowed by Washington's water quality standards, said Rob Gordon, director of the National Wilderness Institute, which assisted in collecting the samples.
The tested samples showed arsenic levels ranging from 14 to 87 times the recommended limit for human health, and levels of mercury up to to eight times that limit.
Based on acute toxicity water quality standards, which measure threats to fish and other aquatic life, the samples showed copper at seven to 12 times the legal level and zinc at three to several hundred times the legal level.
Selenium showed up at two to three times the legal limit, and lead was about 50 percent higher than the limit.
All of these metals, including nickel and chromium, are likely to exceed chronic levels by much larger factors. Chronic standards are much more stringent and measure toxicity over longer periods of exposure, Mr. Gordon said.
Tom Jacobus, general manager of the Washington Aqueduct, disputed the report and said the metals would be found only in trace amounts. The raw water is tested regularly, but Mr. Jacobus said the sludge, or sediment, is tested only for aluminum and iron.
"There is nothing in the sediment of any concern to public health at all," the aqueduct manager said.
When the reservoir was dredged in 1996 and 1998, the metals found in Mr. Radanovich's commissioned test results were not present, Mr. Jacobus said.
"Anecdotally, it doesn't pass the common sense test: We know what's in the reservoir we know what comes in from the river," he said, and there must be "some misunderstanding."
"Is Radanovich contending his science is better than our science?" Mr. Jacobus said.
The arsenic discharges are one to two parts per billion in raw water, the aqueduct manager said. He would not address the other elements until he could review the laboratory findings, but said they should be present only in nondetectable or trivial amounts.
Mr. Radanovich said he will question top Bush administration officials about the discharges during a June 19 oversight hearing of the House Resources Committee. "This practice is indefensible," the California Republican said.
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans have been called to appear and explain the dumpings. Virginia's Republican senators, John W. Warner and George Allen, called for hearings last summer, but the Democrat-controlled body has not acted on that request.
"Whether it is an oversight or negligence, I intend to find out why," Mr. Radanovich said.
The federal government has allowed itself to dump tons of sludge into the Potomac River under a permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"This midnight dumping is being conducted or condoned by the federal agencies that are supposed to protect our water," the National Wilderness Institute's Mr. Gordon said.
The dumps coat and kill wildlife, and one discharge covers the only potential spawning ground for the endangered short-nose sturgeon.
For years, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have maintained the discharges into the Potomac have no effect on the river or its aquatic life, including the short-nose sturgeon. One discharge is released through the C&O; National Historic Park.
"While I am not a chemist or a biologist, I find it hard to believe these levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, copper and chromium are acceptable in any river, no less acceptable in an American Heritage river, in a national park and in an endangered species spawning ground," Mr. Radanovich said.
Mr. Radanovich is scheduled to appear tonight on Fox News Channel's "O'Reilly Factor" to release his findings and to show videotape footage of the massive amount of sludge being dumped at one site above Chain Bridge and two sites above Georgetown.

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