Northwest D.C. and Montgomery County residents concerned about a planned sludge plant in their area now have more time to voice their views.

In response to public protests, Washington Aqueduct chief Thomas Jacobus agreed last week to a 15-day extension of the public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement released by the Army Corps of Engineers. The new deadline, June 21, will be the last day the public may comment on a proposal to build a dewatering tower at the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant and to haul away the residuals by truck.

Several community groups under the umbrella Concerned Neighbors have objected to the plan. Some of them said they would prefer the more costly option of having a pipeline built to carry away residuals underground.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Maryland Democratic Senators Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) asked the aqueduct to specify a later comment date in the document when it was first published in April, to allow more time for public response. Later, D.C. council member Carol Schwartz asked for a 45-day extension of the public comment period.

Although an extension was granted, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Rachel Thompson said it was no triumph. "They are playing hardball. Two weeks is far short of what's been requested," she said.