Plans to compost most Washington-area sewage sludge at Oxon Cove near D.C. village, partly on land the National Park Service proposes to turn into a golf course, will be the subject of a public hearing Monday at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Southwest Washington.
The 600-ton-a-day residue from the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant, just over a mile from the site, would be composted with wood chips, leaves or previously treated sludge to produce a virtually sterile organic mulch. The composted sludge would be given away free for use in area parks, farms and gardens.
Most of Blue Plains' sludge presently is trucked 36 miles to upper Montgomery County where it is buried, a process that costs area resident $35 a ton. Use of that site is supposed to end by Dec. 31.
The composting process proposed for Oxon Cove for a five-year period, until a permanent composting site can be found, is not only considered the cheapest method of disposing of the heavy sediment from sewage (an estimated $13 a ton at the Oxon Cove site) but is considered ecologically the best since it recycles human waste, according to an environmental impact assessment just completed by the District and EPA.
The assessment considered eight possible sites, including three around Oxon Cove, but the others were considered prohibitively expensive, unavailable or had other drawbacks.
The proposed 23-acre site would use 17 acres the Park Service had planned to turn into two holes of the 18-hole golf course it is building at Oxon Cove this year. This site is almost one mile from the nearest private homes, in the Prince George's County subdivision of Forest Heights, but it is less than 500 feet from D.C. Village, the city's former home for children now used as a home for the elderly.
Much of the proposed site had been used as a sanitary landfill dump until 1973, and is now vacant or used as a storage area for incinerator fly ash. It is over one mile from the Blue Plains plant and also next to the city's automobile impoundment lot, where more than 1,000 abandoned, stolen and towed cars are stored.
Composting is seen not just as "the only practicable, immediately implementable alternative for the disposal of raw sewage sludge" in the huge quantities produced at Blue Plains, according to the environmental assessment, but also as the "most economical . . . most odor free" method. In addition, it produces an organic soil conditioner and low-grade fertilizer.
Federal and Maryland scientists have successfully tested the composting of more than 50 tons a day of Blue Plains sludge for more than three years at Beltsville, Md. It initially produced some odor complaints from residents living about a mile upwind of the site, but since the present "static pile" method of composting was begun in October, 1975, there hasn't been a single complaint, officials said.
Area officials had hoped to get approval for the Oxon Cove site in time to begin composting operations, and free distribution of compost, this fall. If the Oxon Cove site is approved, huge concrete pads would have to be constructed. This would take at least until July, 1978, officials now estimate.
The hearing will be at 7 p.m. in the press conference room, room 3906, at EPA's Waterside Mall headquarters, 401 M St. SW.