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Activists bristle at trash facility

(Published October 23, 2000)


Staff Writer

City workers process garbage at the Fort Totten trash transfer station, which handles approximately 400,000 tons of waste a day.

Ward 8 residents, joined by environmental activists, say they will fight any efforts to implement the recommendation of a D.C. council advisory panel that called for the creation of a new trash-transfer station at the former D.C. Village site in Southwest Washington.

Activists staged a protest Oct. 21 prior to a public meeting at Trinity College at which the D.C. Solid Waste Transfer Facility Site Selection Advisory Panel presented its draft recommendations to the public and sought comment on the report. The panelís final recommendations are due to be presented to the city council in early December.

Activists said they are seeking "environmental justice," as well as an end to Ward 8 being viewed as a "dumping ground" for public facilities that arenít wanted in other parts of the city. Ward 8 is the cityís lowest-income area.

"Iím calling for a moratorium in Ward 8," said activist Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, who was at the forefront of residentsí successful fight to keep a prison out of Ward 8 and who has been agitating to get a supermarket opened in the cityís only ward that is without one. "Until we get what we need, weíre just going to have to say no," he said.

Kinlow criticized the panel for not viewing the cityís trash-handling operations in a regional context and said activists plan to issue their own recommendations soon for how the city should deal with its trash.

Appointed late last year to seek suitable sites for privately operated trash transfer stations, the eight-member advisory panel concluded in its report "that the District has no suitable sites for private solid waste transfer stations that fully meet the criteria identified in the law."

Four privately owned trash transfer stations currently operating in residential city neighborhoods provided the impetus for the panelís creation. Neighbors have complained incessantly that about the noxious odors, vermin, truck traffic and other health and safety concerns the facilities present in their communities.

The panel did not suggest methods for shutting down the privately owned stations, which panel chairman Dorn McGrath said wasnít the panelís job.

"Our job was to select sites suitable for trash transfer stations and we did that," he said. "Some of these private people came in under false pretenses...(and) the city canít seem to get itself together to enforce the law. All are in violation of D.C. law."

In addition to recommending a new city-owned, state-of-the-art transfer station, the panel also called for expansion and upgrading of the city-owned transfer facility at Fort Totten in Ward 4, conversion of the Benning Road transfer facility in Ward 7 into a possible recycling station, the creation of conveniently located citizen drop-off sites for recycling and the establishment of an independent Trash Transfer Advisory Board of citizens to provide oversight of solid waste transfer and recycling activities.

The panel also called for increased enforcement of the cityís solid waste regulations, the creation of more stringent environmental regulations, better land-use planning to avoid residential-industrial conflicts, and a comprehensive public health study to determine the relationship of environmental factors to adverse health conditions among the cityís residents.

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator