- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

A new permit will be issued today by the federal government allowing itself to continue dumping tons of sludge into the Potomac River, despite scientific reviews that say the dumps endanger wildlife and should be stopped immediately.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said the sludge dumping "is an issue very, very important to us."
"We are working with the EPA to see that we are on top of the situation and ensuring everyone is doing their fair share to clean up the river," Mr. Williams said.
The new permit from the Environmental Protection Agency allows the Army Corps of Engineers to continue dumping tens of thousands of milligrams per liter of solids into the Potomac River for the next five years, said Rob Gordon, director of the National Wilderness Institute.
The dumps coat and kill wildlife and one discharge covers the only potential spawning ground for the endangered short-nose sturgeon, Mr. Gordon said.
Details of the new permit for dumps at several points along the river near Fletchers Boathouse were announced at a community meeting Tuesday night across the street from the Dalecarlia water treatment plant. One person attending noted that the EPA official giving the presentation on the new permit was drinking bottled water.
"The EPA is essentially permitting the Corps of Engineers to violate both the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts, and I think it's criminal," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican and leading critic of the sludge discharges.
Mr. Radanovich, chairman of the House Resources national parks, recreation and public lands subcommittee, has been investigating whether the federal government violates the law by allowing the dumps.
"It is ironic that the federal agency responsible for protecting our environment is actually permitting toxic discharges into the Potomac River," Mr. Radanovich said. "The fact that the EPA is issuing a new permit for sludge dumping is appalling and preposterous."
The sludge is created when the Corps uses alum to separate sediment from drinking water taken from the Potomac and pushes it back into the river in heavier concentrations.
The new permit replaces one that expired in 1994, but the Corps was allowed to continue discharges under the old rules. The new permit limits dumping to certain times of the year and calls for a plan to be produced "sometime in the future" to reduce discharges by 35 percent, Mr. Gordon said.
"It is indefensible and outragous they are going to allow this facility to continue dumping the same volume of sludge through a national park and into crucial spawning grounds," said Mr. Gordon, who is suing the federal government to stop the dumps.
The discharges dramatically exceed all other facilities on the Chesapeake Bay and along the East Coast, which typically allow only 30 milligrams of solids per liter be discharged.
A scientific peer review by the Institute for Regulatory Science said the government is using faulty science to allow the dumpings and that it should be discontinued immediately.
"The review determined their science to be faulty at best, if not bogus," said Mr. Radanovich who released the review last week.
The scientists commissioned for the peer review recommended that the dumping cease immediately and that a treatment facility be constructed to treat the toxic sludge appropriately.
In 1999, a government panel called for terminating the discharges. It included the National Marine Fishery Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.
The permit also requires the corp to make the outfalls where the crude-oil-like dumps occur be more aesthetically pleasing.
"That means hide the discharges so people can't see them," Mr. Gordon said.


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