EPA Says Toxic Sludge is
Good for Fish

June 19, 2002

EPA says toxic sludge is good for fish
By Audrey Hudson
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Army Corps of Engineers' dumping of toxic sludge into the Potomac
River protects fish by forcing them to flee the polluted area and escape
fishermen, according to an internal Environmental Protection Agency
document.

The document says it is not a "ridiculous possibility" that a
discharge "actually protects the fish in that they are not inclined to bite
(and get eaten by humans) but they go ahead with their upstream movement
and egg laying."

The House Resources Committee will hold a hearing today on the sludge
dumping, first reported by The Washington Times, calling in top Cabinet
officials to explain why they allow it.

"To suggest that toxic sludge is good for fish because it prevents
them from being caught by man is like suggesting that we club baby seals to
death to prevent them from being eaten by sharks. It's ludicrous," said
Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican and chairman of the
subcommittee on national parks, recreation and public lands.

"This is one of the most frightening examples of bureaucratic
ineptitude and backward logic I have ever seen," Mr. Radanovich said.

A spokesman for the EPA was not available to comment on the document,
which was included in the administrative record. The federal agency used
that information to allow the dumpings through the C&O Canal National Park
and into the Potomac, a designated American Heritage river.

The Corps began the discharges in 1989 under a permit issued by the
EPA, but the permit expired in 1993. The Corps was allowed to continue
dumping under the expired permit until this year. A new permit was issued
in March.

The National Wilderness Institute is suing the EPA to stop the
discharges, which they say violate the Endangered Species Act. The EPA
shared the document with the National Wilderness Institute as part of the
court process. The author is not named.

The document instructs officials to focus less on the concerns of
fishermen who say the sludge dumping is killing fish and more on the
ability of the fish to complete their spawn without interference from the
discharges.

The Corps dumps 200,000 tons of "toxic sludge" into the river every
year in violation of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act,
according to the House committee.

William Colley, a retired environmental engineer who worked for the
EPA for 29 years, said he was removed from leading the new permit process
in 1999 after advocating eliminating the discharges.

"I had written the permit, public notice, draft fact sheet and had
everything ready for the permit to be issued, and the effluent limits I
developed for the permit were such they would have had to terminate the
discharges," Mr. Colley told The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Colley took over the permit process in 1997 and said his
predecessor also believed that the discharges should be stopped.

Mr. Colley said he made it clear "the discharges are illegal and
violate the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations."

Mr. Radanovich yesterday sent a letter to the White House asking the
administration to clean up the "environmental disaster" inherited from its
predecessors.

"Some of the same EPA officials who decided not to forbid the dumping
are still committed to giving special treatment to this plant. Their
intransigence now threatens to link your administration to the indefensible
notion that Washington, D.C., should be exempt from the environmental laws
that are enforced throughout the country," Mr. Radanovich said in the
letter.

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