A study that said six Maryland and Virginia banks have fallen far short of making the investments they promised in Washington's economically depressed neighborhoods has sparked a storm of controversy among bankers, community activists and politicians.

The report, released Thursday by D.C. Banking Superintendent Edward D. Irons, documented mortgage lending by six regional banks that have acquired District banks in recent years. According to the report, these institutions failed to live up to commitments they made to lend funds to economically depressed neighborhoods.

The bankers said they plan to refute Irons's findings with their own comprehensive study. Irons said his study included only mortgage lending because the banks wouldn't release other data.

The Irons study said the banks lent an average of $6,652 per acre in the city's predominantly black wards and an average of $60,000 per acre in the city's predominantly white ward.

Maurice Cullinane, executive director of the Washington Area Bankers Association, called the report "totally off-target and full of misinformation." His comments were echoed by officials from the six banks in question: Crestar, Signet, Sovran/D.C. National, American Security, Citizens and Dominion.

"We are going to respond to Dr. Irons with information which will severely conflict {with} what he has said, and which will add credibility to the bankers and take away credibility from him," said Robert Pincus, president of Sovran/D.C. National.

"We will correct this distortion of facts," said Vicky Tassan, spokeswoman for American Security. "We will show him wrong."

D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), head of the council's committee on housing and economic development, said there may be some banks that have not met investment goals. But she harshly criticized Irons, saying his study didn't accurately portray the banks' overall loan activity.

Community activists, who have spearheaded efforts in the past to force the banks to lend in the city's economically depressed neighborhoods, said yesterday they believe Irons's study is sound and accurate.

"I think the bottom line here is that redlining is still well and alive," said Leroy Hubbard, referring to the practice of banks refusing to make loans in certain neighborhoods because of their racial composition.

Hubbard, co-chairman of the Reinvestment Alliance, a coalition of community groups that works to ensure that banks meet community investment needs, said the group will meet next week to discuss pressuring the banks by holding protests, lobbying and urging District residents to withdraw their deposits.