Veteran's cemetery scrutinized after tire dumping allegation

5:24 PM, Jan 2, 2014   |    comments
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CHELTENHAM, Md. (WUSA9) --  Prince George's County is investigating allegations of illegal tire dumping at the Cheltenham Maryland Veterans Cemetery after a whistle-blower Wednesday showed WUSA9 what he claimed was evidence of unprofessional management at the facility.

A spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Veteran's Affairs says officials are looking into the allegations and are promising that the dignity of the 20,000 veterans buried at the cemetery is protected.

The cemetery is under scrutiny after an incident Monday when workers disturbed at least 56 graves after getting a tractor stuck in the mud.  Photo's of the incident circulated on social media, sparked outrage.

On Wednesday, WUSA9 documented what appeared to be tires and plastic waste dumped in open pits in a maintenance area at the cemetery.  A trailer and landscaping equipment appeared to be abandoned in the woods.  A small American flag was found in the mud by the edge of one waste pit.

Tire dumping is prohibited by state law.  A county inspector was dispatched Thursday to investigate, according to Susan Hubbard of the county's department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement.

State Veteran's Affairs spokesperson Dana Hendrickson explained that a contractor working on improvements to the cemetery was recently terminated.   She blamed the apparent abandonment of junk equipment and landscaping debris on the transition.

Hendrickson said normally weather-worn flags are collected and disposed correctly with the help of volunteer organizations, not dumped in pits which are supposed to be for biodegradable debris only.

"We do sincerely care," Hedrickson said.  "We are concerned."

Secretary of Maryland Veteran's Affairs Edward Chow Jr. Tuesday promised a review of operations at the cemetery after graves were disturbed during the stuck tractor incident.

"The grave site is the last honor we give to our veterans and we're not going to let that happen again," Chow said Tuesday.

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