MPT's environmental forum Focus tomorrow on lead poisoning, smog and trash.


Baltimore will be talking trash -- and lead poisoning and smog -- at an "environmental town meeting" to be broadcast live on Maryland Public Television tomorrow night.

The hourlong forum, sponsored by Morgan State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will feature EPA Administrator William K. Reilly on a panel with local government and business officials, academics and community leaders, talking about pollution in Baltimore and how to reduce it.

A survey of city leaders and residents identified automobile emissions, lead poisoning, hazardous wastes and landfills as the top problems confronting the city, said Dr. Jerry Atkins, Morgan State's assistant dean of engineering, who is spearheading the project. The survey was conducted as part of a planning process that began in January.

The town meeting, dubbed "Working Together to Save Baltimore," is intended to bring people together to identify environmental problems undermining Baltimore's quality of life and to find ways of cooperating to solve them.

The project is financed by a $50,000 grant from the EPA, which is seeking to focus more attention on urban pollution and its impact on minority communities. For instance, about 70 percent of Baltimore's housing stock is believed to contain lead-based paint, putting almost half of the city's children at risk for developmental and learning problems because of exposure to the toxic metal.

Teams of civic, business and government leaders have proposed general goals for curbing problems identified in the survey, Dr. Atkins said. Improving housing maintenance to cut down on lead dust, enhancing public transportation to cut down on auto emissions and boosting recycling and waste reduction are among the suggestions. "We have to have some goals that are simple and strong and get to the heart of the issue," Dr. Atkins said.

The panel of experts will take questions from an invited audience in a television studio in Owings Mills, but the public is welcome to participate as part of a Morgan State audience linked by remote. Anyone wishing to be in the audience should be at the McKeldin Auditorium on the Morgan campus by 7 p.m.

The 8 p.m. program will be carried live over Maryland Public Television, and simulcast on WEAA, Morgan State's public radio station. The town meeting will be rebroadcast at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on WJZ-TV, Channel 13.

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