Skip to comments.Potomac Sludge (Look who's violating the Clean Water Act)
Posted on 09/04/2002 8:38:43 PM PDT by Libloather
We often write about Washington dirt, but it turns out we had no idea. Listen to this tale about the water pollution our nation's capital suffers, and all because its residents won't follow the laws they wrote.
We're talking about the Washington Aqueduct, a treatment facility that provides drinking water to about a million residents. In purifying that water, the Aqueduct creates thousands of tons of chemically treated sludge a year. What happens to that goo? Well, the Army Corps of Engineers dumps it into the storied Potomac River, in the dead of night, including via the C&O Canal National Park. The Wilderness Institute has now files suit saying this violates both the Clean Water and Endangered Species Act.
Let's be clear: No other city on the East Coast is permitted to dump toxic sludge in its waterways. Other than a few special-circumstance facilities in the Midwest, no city in the nation is allowed this practice. The Corps gets away with it only because Mother Nature's guardians at the Environmental Protection Agency keep issuing special discharge permits; the EPA has just closed the comment period for a new one.
What will that permit mean? In reports filed to the EPA, the Corps has admitted dumping as much as 241,500 milligrams of suspended solids per liter into the river. The maximum allowed limit for most states is around 30.
Both the Wilderness Institute and California Representative George Radanovich, who runs the House subcommittee on parks and public lands, have had a private lab test the discharge. It found the facility was spewing out arsenic, lead and mercury in amounts far exceeding legal limits. The Corps claims there are only trace amounts, although it has not disclosed the actual concentrations for more than a decade. "You might be able to find other places that dump like this but you'd have to go to India or Bulgaria," says Wilderness Institute Director Rob Gordon.
The big picture here is that the nation's powerful are only too happy to insist that everyone else obey burdensome environmental rules while they ignore them. There was talk of revoking the special D.C. permit in 1995. But residents of Northern Virginia refused to pay $60 million for an upgraded water-treatment facility. And homeowners in the Palisades district near Georgetown, home to denizens of Capitol Hill, went into lobby overdrive to stop trucks from hauling the sludge through their upscale neighborhood.
One 1997 document has an EPA official describing a meeting with the new head of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, who is aghast the plant is still discharging solids. "Obviously his fellow customers haven't had the time to work him over yet," chortles the EPA official. This political favoritism has induced both the Corps and EPA to insist that the sludge actually helps the Potomac. A recent House probe disclosed an EPA document making the hilarious claim that dumping protects endangered fish, by forcing them to flee polluted areas and escape fisherman. A mortified EPA is now denying paternity.
The entire government has embarrassed itself in this affair. In the wake of the lawsuit, retired EPA employee William Colley has said he was removed from the permit process in 1999 after he advocated stopping the discharges. The Justice Department has fought to keep the Institute away from even routine files.
Which leaves us wondering why the Bush Administration is defending this inherited disgrace. If Washington won't adhere to the Clean Water Act, why should anyone else have to? We'd also note that not one national environmental group has joined the Wilderness Institute's legal campaign. Perhaps the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society view polluting differently when it protects the pocketbooks of the lobbyists with Palisades zip codes.
If the EPA does renew this Beltway exemption, we hope it is prepared to review the pollution permits for the entire U.S. Last we looked environmental laws apply equally to all cities, even those whose residents passed them in the first place.
Even in the city of excess, this still seems awfully excessive - no?
...the Corps has admitted dumping as much as 241,500 milligrams of suspended solids per liter into the river. The maximum allowed limit for most states is around 30.
Do most cities match D.C.?
Thanks so much for participating...
Who's to blame then?
Help me out here. I've never been to D.C. but from everything I've read it sounds like a 3rd world country. Pollution, crack-smoking mayors, violent crime, etc. Is it really that bad?
The only reason that Washington has not sunk completely into ruin is because the U.S. Government keeps increasing their annual payment to the City. Money gets spent at the same rate as trying to keep a sieve full of water, and just as effectively.
Prostitutes operate two blocks from a police station. Elected officials get a pass for not filing several years worth of tax returns.
Crack smoking Mayors. Another mayor with forged signatures on petitions. Outrage over the word "niggardly."
Also, having been in the navy and done extensive travel throughout the United States and the rest of the world, I have never seen a major city that goes out of its way to mess up its own streets. Construction is done on the roads - to lay new cable - and the repaving job is terrible.
During the winter, the city comes to an instant standstill at the first snowflake. If and when the snowplows do come out - usually a couple days after it has snowed and the city is crippled - the plows not only take up the snow but parts of the street.
The strictest gun control laws in the nation - police officers from outside the city cannot carry their own firearms in DC - and one of the highest murder rates.
The most money poured into the public school system per teacher-student and the worst test scores in the nation.
I could go on but I think everyone should get the picture. Baltimore - right up the road - is no better. But should anyone be surprised. Look at just about any large city in the United States that is and/or has been controlled by DemoRATs and you will see the same problems. I am not saying that New York was the safest city in the world, but when Rudy was in charge he did an excellent job cleaning it up and making it decent enough for families to come up there and not worry for there lives.
Regards, and you have hit the ten ring!
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