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Residents: Mayor’s trash plan stinks

(Published April 19, 1999)


Staff Writer

Concerned Ward 7 residents say they’re sick of the city government "dumping" all its problems east of the Anacostia River. After attending a hearing about Mayor Anthony Williams’ $11 million proposal to consolidate all the city’s trash operations at the Benning Road transfer station, some said the plan stinks.

"I’m going to do everything in my power to kill this proposal," vowed Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward 7, at a council hearing April 15 on the mayor’s plan.

"This current plan by the administration smells of public pressure from residents to move their problems where no one seems to care — east of the river," said William E. Wright, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7D. Several hundred Ward 7 residents and civic leaders joined Wright to oppose the proposal and expressed their outrage at the lack of community input.

"This going-behind-doors turns people away from their government," Chavous said. He charged that the city government has a history of dumping its problems on his ward, citing previous plans to develop Children’s Island and the current Pepco power plant.

"If we’re going to change policy, then you have to involve the public in the process," the councilman said.

The consolidation plan, which is included in the mayor’s capital improvements budget for fiscal 2000, would move all operations from the city’s Fort Totten waste transfer station at 4900 Bates Road NE to a modernized site at 3200 Benning Road NE.

The site, about 6 acres, would increase its capacity from 300 to 800 tons. The Fort Totten site would be re-designed as a "convenience center" for residents to deposit recyclable materials. According to a project overview issued by the mayor’s office, the plan would save the District $700,000 a year.

Residents who live at Parkside Townhomes and River Terrace, both in close proximity to the Benning Road site, say they fear major pollution and illness from an expanded trash-transfer site.

"Did you know that Ward 7 has the highest cancer rate in the District?" said Earl Wynn of the River Terrace Community Organization, located across the street from the Benning Road transfer station.

George Gurley, president of the River Terrace organization, said he is concerned that materials at the site will adversely affect the neighborhood’s children and the nearby elementary school.

City Councilwomen Carol Schwartz, R-At large, and Sharon Ambrose, D-Ward 6, joined Chavous in opposing the mayor’s proposal during the hearing, saying they are disappointed that the mayor has provided little information to the council and the public.

Chavous said this lack of communication with the public is intolerable.

Michael Carter, deputy director at the Department of Public Works, who testified on behalf of the mayor, said the city government hurried the proposal along because "they didn’t want to wait a full year to get into the budget cycle."

"We tried to find a site where the least number of people were impacted," said Carter.

DPW officials said an environmental impact study will be conducted on the site. Schwartz interrogated DPW officials on the heavy flow of trucks transporting trash to the site. One DPW official said about 75 trips are made daily to each site.

"So if this site is consolidated, that makes about 300 trips traveling back and forth to Benning Road," said Schwartz.

Residents and council members suggested that public works officials research how expanding the Benning Road facility might decrease the property values in the neighborhood. They urged the inclusion of community participation on the site selection committee and traffic analysis.

Jim Schulmann of Citizens Against Trash Transfer Stations said he hopes buffer zones will be considered, noting the problems Ward 5 residents have had with private trash-transfer stations.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator