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Energy Answers incinerator project would put the health of thousands of Baltimore residents at risk

Environmental PollutionEnvironmental PoliticsU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyReligious EducationBenjamin Franklin

Columnist Jay Hancock's effort to take another journalistic swipe at BGE and Constellation Energy leaves the impression that the Energy Answers incinerator planned for Baltimore City is a benign, renewable energy project worth Marylanders' support ("This waste-to-energy plant could be a model for Md." Sept. 11).

In fact, the Energy Answers incinerator would generate only a marginal amount of electricity — at best 160 megawatts — while burning at least 4,000 tons of waste matter a day, primarily ground-up tires, vinyl, plastic, wood and municipal waste.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the project is the state's decision to waive the law prohibiting construction of an incinerator within one mile of a school. There are four public schools and several parochial schools in the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay neighborhoods; two of them (Curtis Bay Elementary School and Benjamin Franklin Middle School) are located within one mile of the Energy Answers property line.

There is no doubt that the incinerator will likely have significant health and environmental impacts on the families of an already environmentally stressed community that is overburdened with toxic air pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory, existing facilities in the Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, and Hawkins Point neighborhoods emitted over 13.5 million pounds of hazardous air pollutants in 2009. It is not surprising that those same communities have some of the highest death rates from chronic lower respiratory disease in Baltimore City.

The EA incinerator will add to this existing toxic soup, producing ash and gases that contain known carcinogens linked to asthma, bronchitis, developmental delay and nerve damage.

Energy Answer's permit also authorizes it to emit 240 pounds of mercury each year — as much as is currently emitted by large coal-fired plants.

Mercury is a highly toxic metal that affects the human nervous system and can damage the immune system, brain, heart, kidneys and lungs. It can also impair neurological development in fetuses, infants and children.

These are some of the facts that Mr. Hancock conveniently ignores. There is no doubt that families from Curtis Bay and Brooklyn to as far away as Canton and Butcher's Hill could suffer irreparable harm if this incinerator's construction and operation are allowed to go forward.

It is both ironic and distressing that some government agencies and school systems apparently have signed contracts to support the Energy Answers incinerator. Government should not be considering using tax dollars to put the health of its citizens at risk, which is exactly what the Energy Answers incinerator would do.

Andy Galli

The writer is Maryland program coordinator for Clean Water Action.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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