Rep. Stanford E. Parris (R-Va.) warned the assembled reporters and photographers not to open either of the jars on his desk. They contained sludge, he said. District of Columbia sludge. Sludge to city wants to send to Northern Virginia.
And then, with the cameras whirring, Parris, in his most outraged tone, complained, "We get their criminals, we get their garbage, but we are not going to get their sewage."
Parris was burning about his discovery of a plan by the District government to ship 900 tons of sludge daily to Lorton in Southern Fairfax County -- already the site of the city's prison and trash dump.
"I'm not going to stand for it," fumed Parris, who said if the city doesn't back down, he will "try to hold hostage" several pieces of legislation that Mayor Marion Barry has asked Congress to approve.
"I don't care what they do with it -- they can spread it on the parking lot at RFK Stadium -- but they are not going to send it to my district," the 8th District Republican screamed.
All of the commotion stirred by Parris is the result of "misinformation," said a calm George Stryker, acting chief of the city's water resources management administration.
"We are not sending sludge to Lorton now, nor do we intend to send sludge to Lorton," Stryker said. What the city does plans to send to Lorton is compost, Stryker said.
"One man's compost in another man's sludge," harrumphed Parris who opposes any incursion of his territory by trucks from the District's Blue Plains sewage treatment plant. "After the camel's nose is under the tent, they'll move in up to their hips," he warned.
Parris said he "uncovered the plot" while studying a request by the District government for a supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year. An extra $1 million is needed, the city said, because of the failure of a private firm to meet a July 1 deadline for removing 900 tons of sludge daily from Blue Plains. The city now plans to do its own composting, after which it would truck the treated material to Lorton.
Stryker said 500 tons of compost already is being trucked daily from the sewage treatment plant at Blue Plains, in Southwest Washington, to Lorton. Stryker said 200 tons of the current shipments are products of Northern Virginia sewers which feed the plant.
What the District wants to do beginning Oct. 1, Stryker said, is treat 700 tons of sludge a day at Blue Plains, and after allowing it to dry out for 21 days, move the decontaminated compost to Lorton, where it will be stored "until we can develop a market for it." Stryker said the treated sewage is "a good soil conditioner for nonfood crops."
Parris said a sludge expert told him it would take six months to dry out the treated sewage.
"This is just the District's latest scheme to comply with a court order" to get rid of its sludge," Parris said. He recalled that the district once proposed shipping the sludge to the Caribbean.
"At first they were going to swap it in Colombia for drugs -- 'You give us your white stuff and we'll give you our black stuff,'" Parris said. "Now they want Fairfax County to bury their problem, while their criminals watch from a mile away. Well, I'm not going to let that happen."