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Agency Scolded For Dumping Beer Into River

Thu., Nov. 20, 1997, midnight

When U.S. Park Police Maj. J.J. McLaughlin smashed 50 cases of beer in a compactor, he thought he finally was rid of the problem of how to dispose of the brew officers confiscated during the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall.

The foamy stream of beer from the crushed cans disappeared when it flowed into a Potomac River culvert, but the problem did not, partly because McLaughlin had invited the media to witness the Oct. 30 destruction.

“We got a call from the FBI. We got lots of calls,” he said. “Everyone was telling us we were in violation of the Clean Water Act. We didn’t know. We were ignorant of it.”

The act allows for only cool, uncontaminated water to be dumped into rivers and streams, he said.

“We were pretty upset. We had checked with our (National) Park Service scientists, and they said it was okay. Well, it was not okay. We spent a lot of time apologizing.”

He said the agency had not been charged with any violation.

The Park Police got stuck with the the brew when visitors to the Mall festivities were told they could not bring alcohol into the park. Groups offered to take away containers filled with cans and bottles, but - for liability reasons - McLaughlin said the police decided to destroy it. He didn’t want to waste officers’ time by having them open each beer and pour it out, so he used a compactor.

Jeff Becker, spokesman for the Beer Institute, a trade association, said his group called the Park Police several months ago and offered to take the beer away.

He said he would contact McLaughlin and make the same offer for unwelcome brew from next year’s Independence Day celebration, saying the institute would give the police the cash value of the beer and ask that it be donated to a charity.

“We would have shared it, kept it in the office,” he said. “We wouldn’t have destroyed it.”

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