- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Whether they were sickened by the stinking scent of sludge oozing into the Potomac or the fear that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could easily license such behavior to continue for another half-decade, Rep. George Radanovich and Sen. George Allen recently introduced legislation (H.R. 5554) designed to limit the amount of toxic pollution that the Army Corps of Engineers dumps into the river via the Washington Aqueduct treatment facility.
Since 1989, the Corps of Engineers has dumped tens of thousands of tons of sludge into the Potomac River each year, thanks to the EPA's easy permitting. That permit actually expired in 1994, but the EPA has continued to allow the discharges (about 13 each year). In fact, the EPA is in the process of renewing the permit, which, as it is currently written, contains no limits on the level of dischargeable pollutants.
One resident form of life, the shortnose sturgeon, is already on the endangered species list, so the dumping clearly violates the Endangered Species Act. It also violates (surprise) the Clean Water Act. Given that, H.R. 5554 is rather generous in its allowances. It simply prohibits the EPA administrator from issuing or renewing any permit for sludge discharges of more than three times the national average. Although their measure is essentially symbolic, the legislators promised to bring it up again next year.
That will almost certainly be necessary, since it is not clear what it will take to make the Corps of Engineers turn off the taps. The dumping has continued despite two hearings on the matter in the House of Representatives, a call for hearings in the Senate, the science allegedly justifying the dumping being challenged by peer review, and a lawsuit by the National Wilderness Institute.
Washington residents deserve better, as do the aquatic creatures of the Potomac currently endangered by the Corps of Engineers' actions. Until the EPA cleans up its act, Messrs. Radanovich and Allen should continue their efforts to slow the sickening flow of sludge into the Potomac.


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