Veteran's cemetery cited for illegal dumping

CHELTENHAM, Md. (WUSA9) --A WUSA9 investigation into sloppy operations at the Maryland Veteran's Cemetery at Cheltenham resulted Monday in Prince George's County citations for alleged illegal dumping.

Prince George's County and Maryland Department of Environment investigators also are planning this week to excavate suspected dump pits exposed by WUSA9 after workers filled in the holes before investigators got there to see for themselves.

Even so, inspectors from the Prince George's County Department of Permits Inspections and Enforcement saw enough evidence during an inspection Friday to issue the new violation notice.

The notice orders the cemetery to: "Remove all rubbish, trash, debris, unlicensed, wrecked or dismantled vehicles or trailers from property to an authorized landfill. Immediately cease all illegal dumping activities to include, but not limited to, the unpermitted disposal of trash and debris."

WUSA9 documented two open pits on cemetery property where tires and other debris appeared to have been disposed. A trailer and landscaping equipment appeared to have been abandoned in the area, which was also littered with heaps of other debris. Much of the debris was within sight of visitors to sections of the cemetery.

WUSA9 exposed the conditions New Year's Day. Investigators visiting on Jan. 3 found the open pits filled in and graded.

In addition to ordering the excavation of the pits, inspectors are investigating other possible environmental violations including grading without a permit and failing to comply with sediment control regulations.

Conditions at the cemetery came to light with the help of an anonymous whistle blower after an earlier incident that sparked widespread outrage.

Workers with a tractor disturbed at least 56 graves Dec. 30 when the machine became stuck in mud during a hasty burial.

Maryland's Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Edward Chow Jr. apologized for the incident and promised a review of cemetery operations.

Monday, Veteran's Affairs spokeswoman Dana Hendrickson said the agency plans a clean up as quickly as possible.

She explained the workers filled in the pits documented by WUSA9 only after workers were instructed to remove and properly dispose of tires and other debris.

"It was a good faith effort to make the situation right moving forward," Hendrickson said.


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