A plan to ship 1,200 tons of sewage sludge each day from the District of Columbia to Haiti has been suspended because of objections raised in the Caribbean island nation, a city official said yesterday.
William B. Johnson, acting director of the D.C. Department of Environmental Services, said the disposal plan proposed by a private firm was shelved because of technical, scientific and political problems reported from Haiti by the U.S. State Department. Johnson said the city had requested the State Department's report.
Under the proposal, sludge would be sent in barge to Haiti, where it would be used as fertilizer in a reforestation project.
A city evaluation team said the plan, proposed by Stewart Environmental Services of New York, was the most promising of 24 proposals received for disposing of solid wastes from the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant.
The sludge is now being buried in suburban Maryland, but the scarcity of land and its high cost spurred a search for an alternative disposal method.
The main problem, both city and State Department officials said, was that Haitian officials had thought the District would send sludge that was composted and ready to be used as fertilizer. The actual plan called for shipping raw solids that remain after liquids are removed during the sewage treatment process.
William Hayne, a deputy assistant secretary of State who deals with environmental matters, said the details of the proposal "came as something of an unpleasant surprise," to Haitian officials.
Hayne also said technicians cast doubt about plans to use the sludge to fertilize leucanea trees, a source of charcoal, at a site near a fishing village in northwestern Haiti.
The trees normally grow in humid areas, Hayne said, it "could have been quite advantageous to both the District of Columbia and Haiti."
Johnson said city officials would try to find other disposal methods.
Bernard V. Van Kleeck III, president of Stewart Environmental Services, did not return a reporter's call seeking comment.
The District also has sought to send sludge to a composting plant proposed by another firm in King George County, Va. But the city has been frustrated by that firm's failure to obtain a required zoning change.