In a report released last week, New York City Comptrller Elizabeth Holtzman blasted the city's proposed $1 billion sludge program, saying it could cost an additional $400 million and questioning the program's technology.

"This mammoth $1 billion program could become a white elephant," Ms. Holtzman said in a statement. "Not only is the city spending much more than needed to haul sludge, [but] it is also investing huge sums of tax dollars in technologies that -- in at least one case -- have caused problems in another city."

The sludge program, established under a consent decree with the state and federal government, is under the auspices of the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

A portion of the program's capital funding is expected to come from revenue bond sales.

One concern cited by the comptroller is that the city's Department of Environmental Protection is planning to spend $168 million on a contract to apply processed sludge to farmland in Oklahoma without having obtained pre-approval from Oklahoma officials.

The department is going to spend $112 million to transport sludge to landfills in Virginia, but it has not obtained the appropriate permits to do so.

In addition, the end product of a $192 million contract with Renewable Earth Products of New York City -- a company that plans to turn some sludge into a material the Department of Environmental Protection is eyeing to cap landfills -- has yet to be approved by the state's Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Ms. Holtzman noted that only two of the plethora of sludge contracts have been signed, thus allowing the city time to address some of the problems in the other proposed contracts.

She also recommended competitive bidding for other landfill companies that can dispose of the sludge for a lower cost.

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