Emergency Warning Wrongly Issued

An emergency warning was issued inadvertently yesterday morning to thousands of Fairfax County cable television viewers during a test of the Emergency Alert System. About 6 a.m. this message appeared on televisions subscribed to Cox Communications cable service: "A local emergency has occurred . . . Please tune to cable channel 16 for detailed information."

The message, which went out to about 70 percent of Cox's 235,000 residential customers in Fairfax, was supposed to indicate that only a test was ongoing. It appeared on the screen for about 30 seconds. "We regret any inconvenience and apologize for any concern," said county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald.


Aqueduct Must Cut Sediment, EPA Says

The Washington Aqueduct will have to make substantial reductions in the amount of sediment flushed into the Potomac River under rules issued yesterday by the EPA for its Dalecarlia treatment plant, according to the federal agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which runs the plant.

The Corps will begin work on a project that will change how it disposes of sediment from its Dalecarlia and Georgetown basins so that eventually there would be no discharge of sediment into the river, Aqueduct chief Thomas P. Jacobus said. The Corps will explore options, including piping the sediment to a wastewater treatment plant or building a sludge-handling facility that would wring water from the sediment so that it could be trucked to landfills or farmland, Jacobus said. He said it could cost $50 million to $60 million to build structures to dispose of the sediment without discharging into the river. The Environmental Protection Agency's discharge permit, which takes effect in 30 days, is intended to reduce sediment concentrations in discharges by 99 percent and ban discharges from Feb. 15 to June 15, when fish are spawning and hatching.


Out-of-Boundary Student Lottery Today

The D.C. school system will hold a lottery today to determine which students will be allowed to attend schools outside their neighborhoods.

The school system received more than 6,000 applications for out-of boundary placements and has about 5,254 slots available across the city. Out-of-boundary enrollment is granted only if a school has space after accepting all of its in-boundary students.

Parents previously had camped out in front of schools to enroll their children on a first-come, first-served basis. The school board revised the policy, calling for a lottery, which will be done by computer today at 5:45 p.m. at the system's Workforce Development Center Annex at 215 G St. NE. Parents need not be present.


Howard School Board Not in Violation

A state panel has determined that the Howard County Board of Education did not violate Maryland law last year when it held several meetings that were not open to the public.

In December, the county PTA council asked the state Open Meetings Law Compliance Board to review the school board's closed-door meetings after a public controversy arose over the board's promise to renew the contract of Superintendent John O'Rourke. In each case, the panel found that the board met or surpassed the minimum requirements of the state open meetings law.

The state board did not rule on a complaint about the accuracy of the written minutes of a Nov. 7 closed meeting, at which the school board discussed the superintendent's contract. School board members disagree on what happened during that meeting, and the state board said it would not resolve factual disputes.

Pr. George's Teen Playing With Gun Is Shot

A Prince George's County teenager was critically wounded yesterday afternoon when a handgun he and his friends were playing with discharged and a bullet struck him in the head, police said.

The 16-year-old victim, who was not identified, was inside a house in the 10700 block of Montgomery Road in Beltsville playing video games with at least three other teenagers when one of them found the handgun, said Cpl. Diane Richardson, a county police spokeswoman. It appears the gun discharged accidentally, she said.

The boy was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center, where he was in critical condition last night.

The teenagers told police that the victim had stayed home from school because he was sick, and the others had missed the school bus. Police seized the handgun and three rifles from the home. It was unknown last night whether the firearms were registered.

Three Hurt in Police Cruiser Collision

A Prince George's County police car and another vehicle collided last night in the Beltsville area of the county, sending three people to hospitals, including a prisoner who was in the police car, a police spokesman said.

The collision occurred about 8 p.m. in the 11700 block of Baltimore Avenue. The officer was flown by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was reported in stable condition, police said. They said an occupant of the second vehicle, a man believed to be in his fifties or sixties, was taken to a hospital after complaining of chest and abdominal pains. The prisoner was taken to a hospital for a checkup, police said.

Pa. Man Found Dead in Annapolis

A 47-year-old Pennsylvania man was found dead yesterday morning floating in water alongside Annapolis City Dock, a popular tourist attraction and community gathering spot.

Greg Allen Hiner of Kennett Square, Pa., had sailed his 26-foot boat into Annapolis alone on Monday from Havre de Grace, Md., said John Surrick, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources. The cause of Hiner's death was unclear yesterday.

Gaithersburg Man Dies in Crash

A 78-year-old Gaithersburg man was killed Monday afternoon in a car accident at New Hampshire Avenue and Sir Galahad Way in Ashton, Montgomery County police said.

Michael Meiselman was fatally injured when the Mercury Sable in which he was riding and a Chevy Suburban driven by Frederick T. Wolpert, 61, of the 17500 block of Sir Galahad Way, collided. The accident happened at 12:24 p.m.

"It made me angry being stuck in traffic because of a guy on a tractor, but it also made me realize if this was something major, how would the city be able to react?"

-- Jonathan Sullivan, on the traffic jam caused by the police standoff with a North Carolina man on the Mall. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Fredrick Kunkle, Justin Blum, Darragh Johnson, Ylan Q. Mui, Jamie Stockwell, Martin Weil and Peter Whoriskey and the Associated Press.