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MERCO CRITICIZES TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL LAWSUIT; OFFICIALS SAY SUIT IS DISCRIMINATORY AND POTENTIAL SETBACK FOR BENEFICIAL USE, RECYCLING

MERCO CRITICIZES TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL LAWSUIT; OFFICIALS SAY SUIT IS DISCRIMINATORY AND POTENTIAL SETBACK FOR BENEFICIAL USE, RECYCLING
 SIERRA BLANCA, Texas, July 2 /PRNewswire/ -- MERCO officials today called a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General an ill-conceived attempt to derail an environmentally-proven project that will use sewage by-product as fertilizer to revitalize a West Texas ranch.
 The lawsuit was filed Tuesday against MERCO and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court in Pecos, Texas, by the Texas Attorney General's office. The suit, MERCO officials say, is discriminatory, in that it seeks additional permits that 500 similar facilities in Texas are not required to have. The MERCO facility has already received approval from the Texas Water Commission.
 "The MERCO project is a win-win-win proposal," said Ralph Macchio, a partner for the project. "The local community wins through jobs and positive economic impact, the environment wins in that we will revitalize seriously depleted rangelands through fertilization and restoration of native grasses, and, yes, New York wins by having an environmentally-friendly temporary solution of use of their treated wastes."
 In the six-year West Texas project, treated sewage by-product from New York will be mixed with soil on up to 45,000 acres of arid ranchland as fertilizer. Shipments of the by-product are transported by rail to the facility in sealed, numbered containers to maintain security, MERCO officials said.
 Macchio said that a number of environmental safeguards have already been planned for the facility, including rainwater run-off controls.
 Nationally, about half of the sewage by-products generated at municipal treatment facilities is currently being applied to farmland as fertilizer. "We have a first-class project that uses proven methods that have been successfully utilized for more than a century," Macchio said.
 The lawsuit appears to seek additional environmental permits at the facility, Macchio said, duplicate to those already approved for the site. "Of the more than 500 beneficial-use sites throughout Texas similar to ours, it is perplexing that we are being singled out for arbitrary treatment," Macchio said. "The lawsuit is a thinly disguised attempt to discriminate against out-of-state generators of biosolids."
 "In the event the judge does rule against MERCO," said Marc Sybert, MERCO spokesperson, "no alternative plans are in place at this time. It's something we will have to look at."
 -0- 7/2/92
 /CONTACT: Marc Sybert of MERCO, 915-986-2477, or 915-833-4240, or Susan Potts of Godwin & Carlton, 512-476-3133, for MERCO/ CO: MERCO ST: Texas IN: SU:


AH -- NY030 -- 6143 07/02/92 11:44 EDT
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Date:Jul 2, 1992
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