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Ward 5 residents grill mayor, officials about BFI site

(Published March 22, 1999)

By LUTISHIA PHILLIPS

Staff Writer

Residents of 13th Street NE continue to raise a stink over the BFI waste transfer station on adjacent W Street. Pledges from Mayor Anthony A. Williams and agency officials to enforce the current laws and create a task force of residents on the issue arenít enough for residents like Ruth Wilson, who has been fighting the waste transfer issue for over 40 years. They just want the site shut down.

"BFI has badly affected our health and homes," said Wilson. "Itís really a disgrace."

"You should come sit on my porch and get a taste of it," said one gentleman with a cane. "But I guess youíre living in another world."

The residents, wearing homemade paper buttons that said "Close BFI," charged that the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has been lax in inspection and enforcement. About 100 residents grilled DCRA officials at a meeting March 16 at Israel Baptist Church.

"Have health inspectors showed up at these facilities to see whatís in them?" one asked. "Do they know what to look for?"

BFI has filed a lawsuit against the District to continue its operations, though DCRA noted that BFI has a number of outstanding citations including operating without a valid certificate of occupancy and emitting odorous air pollutants.

According to DCRA officials, BFI currently has an interim operating permit to legally operate its transfer station at the site.

But due to BFI lawsuits, some cases have been delayed. Max Berger of DCRA assured residents the District is continuing to do all it can to make sure the facility is operated in strict compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. The law passed by D.C. City Council that requires a 500-foot buffer zone between residences and trash transfer stations has yet to be approved by Congress.

Officer Shakir Muslin of the Metropolitan Police Departmentís environmental crimes unit presented statistics from its recent "Trashnet" enforcement operation Feb. 8-10. Eleven law enforcement officers and government inspectors stopped and inspected 60 trash trucks in the District. Officers found and ticketed 71 violations, including nine overweight vehicles. Nine trucks were taken out of service.

DCRA officials said they will monitor the BFI facility with at least three different inspectors weekly and each inspector may issue appropriate citations for observed violations.

In a three-page document listing their concerns, residents charged that BFI may be illegally transporting trash from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maine to the District site. DCRA replied that the District couldnít legally prevent the transport of out-of-state waste within the District. Residents also questioned the inspectorsí qualifications and how they determine if waste is hazardous or not.

Public health advocate Les Butler questioned whether an environmental impact study had been done to find out any immediate health effects because of the station. Mayor Williams said the District hasnít had money in the budget for a study.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator