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Oct. hearing set on trash transfer

(Published September 25, 2000)


Staff Writer

At lower left, an ďindustrial sizeĒ air freshener disperses deodorizer at the entrance to Waste Managementís trash transfer facility on Queens Chapel Road in Northeast Washingtonís Ward 5.

A special advisory panelís anxiously awaited recommendations for where to locate the cityís controversial trash transfer stations are due soon and, amid rampant public speculation, panel members say they made a pact to remain tight-lipped until their draft report is officially released.

"We all realize that when our report comes out, weíre just going to take terrible heat, but itís been terrible heat all along on this issue Ė itís just not been easy any step of the way," said Marilyn Groves, the Ward 2 representative on D.C. City Councilís Solid Waste Transfer Facility Site Selection Advisory Panel.

The Rev. Morris L. Shearin Sr., pastor of Israel Baptist Church and one of two Ward 5 representatives on the panel, described much of the public speculation he has heard about the panelís work as "misinformation."

"We have not even drafted our report yet. That will not be done until next Friday," he said, referring to the panelís next working meeting on Sept. 29.

An all-day public meeting at which the panel will receive public comment on its draft report has been scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 21 at Trinity College. Panel members said they expect copies of their report to be available for public review at least 10 days before the meeting. The panelís timetable calls for it to present its final recommendations to the city council after considering comments received at the public hearing.

The nine-member volunteer panel was appointed last November to conduct the cityís first comprehensive study of public and private trash-handling operations and to make recommendations to the city council. By law, the panel must present its recommendations to the council before mid-December, when its work is mandated to be done and its membersí appointments will expire.

During its brief existence, the panel itself has not escaped internal controversy. Ward 7 representative George Gurley recently resigned from the panel, reportedly over concerns that the views of residents who live closest to the cityís existing trash transfer stations were not being adequately represented on the panel. Gurley, who heads the River Terrace Community Organization, could not be reached for comment.

Residents of Ward 5 and Ward 7 have become increasingly vocal in recent years about the stench, vermin and truck traffic to which their neighborhoods have been subjected due to trash transfer stations Ė both publicly and privately operated Ė being located in residential areas.

Activists on the issue convened a community meeting Sept. 19 in Ward 8, which was attended by about 30 people. While none of the current trash transfer operations are located in Ward 8, activists said they are trying to head off speculation that the advisory panel will recommend creation of a new trash transfer station to be located at the former D.C. Village site in far Southwest Washington along the Anacostia River.

Trash handling operations in the city have been described by both industry representatives and citizen activists as "obsolete" and "antiquated." And many Ward 5 activists even attribute Councilman Vincent Orangeís 1998 defeat of now-deceased former Ward 5 councilman Harry Thomas Sr. to what they considered to be Thomasís overly close ties to the trash transfer industry.

While Orange is sometimes criticized for seeming to put big business concerns ahead of his constituents, the Ward 5 Democrat has not strayed from his vehement public opposition to the continued existence of privately run trash transfer stations in residential neighborhoods.

Perhaps as an attempt at pre-empting the council panelís trash transfer recommendations, Orange on Sept. 19 introduced legislation before the council that calls for all solid waste, trash transfer, recycling and waste management services to be restricted to the two city-owned trash-handling facilities at Fort Totten and on Benning Road, both in the Districtís Northeast quadrant.

"It is clear that the regulatory framework we have in the area of solid waste management is wholly inadequate if it will permit trash transfer services to exist in essentially residential neighborhoods," Orange said in a statement issued by his office. He said the continuing neighborhood nuisances and health concerns raised by these stations are "downright disrespectful" to nearby residents and called the D.C. governmentís failure to collect empirical data on health-related concerns "abhorrent."

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator