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Commission says pans would dump D.C. sludge in area

March 24, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

Jefferson County Commission members said Thursday they have heard about a proposal to dispose of Washington, D.C.'s sewage sludge in Jefferson County and said they are concerned how the operation could affect the county's environment.

Commission President Greg Corliss said he heard the proposal involves bringing the sewage sludge to the county and putting it on a field.

Corliss said he does not know any additional details about the proposal. Commission members talked about trying to get more information from state officials.

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Corliss said he is concerned about the issue, particularly due to the sensitive nature of the county's karst terrain.

Karst refers to an area that is made up of porous limestone containing deep fissures and sinkholes and is characterized by underground caves and streams.

Sludge is the material which is left over after sewage is treated, said Commission member Rusty Morgan. It is typically dried and then disposed of, Morgan said.

Morgan said he did not know if the county's land-use regulations could control such an operation. "I think it would be a threat to the county's groundwater," Corliss said during a commission meeting Thursday morning.

Morgan said the sewage sludge likely would have industrial materials in it and said he wants to know the economic impacts of such an operation.

It could be a lucrative deal for a landowner but it could have negative impacts on the county, Morgan said.

Morgan said the state Department of Environmental Protection is aware of the idea and the commissioners discussed using Freedom of Information requests to obtain information from state officials about it.

"I think it would be in our best interest to investigate," Commission member Dale Manuel said.

Jessica Greathouse, spokeswoman for the DEP, said Thursday afternoon she checked with officials in the agency Thursday and could not find anyone who was familiar with such a proposal.

Several years ago, the state was approached by a company in Baltimore that was proposing a similar plan for areas including the Eastern Panhandle, said Greathouse, who is based in Charleston, W.Va.

The state explained the steps to obtain a permit, the public participation process and permit fees, but state officials never heard from the company again, Greathouse said.

Despite Greathouse's comments, Corliss said later Thursday afternoon that the recent proposal is "ongoing."

Officials in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment.

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