D.C. City Council members sharply criticized the Barry administration yesterday for its handling of the city's mounting sludge-disposal problem and for failing to confer with the council before a contractor began dumping chemically treated sludge in the city last summer.
About 85,000 tons of treated city sludge is being stockpiled at the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant in Southwest because the current disposal contractor and a previous contractor could not find an outlet for the material. Plant officials say they will run out of storage space within the next two weeks. The current contractor is seeking a permit to haul material to a private landfill in Prince George's County.
"We've talked over this issue for years, and we don't seem to be any closer to a solution today than when we started out," council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large), chairman of the Transportation and Environmental Affairs Committee, said during a committee hearing on the sludge situation. "Our problem still remains immense."
Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), complained that the D.C. Department of Environmental Services (DES) permitted the current contractor to dump about 12,000 tons of a clay-like processed sludge called "Chemfix" near the Fort Lincoln "new town" development, located in Spaulding's ward, without giving advance notification.
"When I became aware of this through reading the paper, I was quite frankly appalled because it seems to me the department would have let the community know what it was about," Spaulding said to William Johnson, director of DES.
The dumping near Fort Lincoln was abruptly halted in August by an inspector in the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, who was concerned that the material might pollute a nearby stream and river. The brief disposing of the Chemfix material on the grounds of the federally operated St. Elizabeths Hospital for the mentally ill was stopped in July after area residents complained to Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) about the smell.
Johnson said he had not thought it was necessary to give the council advance warning about the planned dumping near Fort Lincoln, southeast of New York and South Dakota avenues NE, because "of the remoteness of the site, away from citizens."
Johnson said he has no immediate plans to resume dumping near Fort Lincoln and that he has given the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) assurances that there will be no further dumping at St. Elizabeths.
Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), also criticized DES for awarding the current one-year, $10 million disposal contract to the joint venture of Jones & Artis Construction/National Environmental Controls Inc. without competitive bidding--especially since there are other firms currently available that have ready access to disposal sites.