Toxic chemical poses big danger for communityI...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Toxic chemical poses big danger for community

I attended the July 11 meeting at Solley Elementary School concerning the anhydrous ammonia that Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is planning to truck into Brandon Shores in a few months.

I was appalled to learn that BGE will put us at risk of the dangers associated with this chemical.

If any of the trucks should have an accident and leak this chemical, or if there should be an accident transferring it from the truck to the tank, thousands of us within the 2.5-mile radius could die within five minutes.

We were told that a HAZMAT team would surely respond, but the response time is approximately 20 minutes. By then, the emergency would already be over and it would just be a matter of assessing the loss of lives and environmental damage.

Our only option to avoid contamination is to turn off our air or heating systems, lock ourselves into one room of the house, put duct tape around every door and window, turn on a portable radio and wait until the all-clear sign.

This chemical is drawn to and is absorbed by moisture. Considering that our bodies are mostly moisture, guess where you can expect this chemical to attack.

At this time, there is no emergency system in place to warn of a disaster. Not that it would matter, with a destruction time of only five minutes. This could occur any time of the day or night. For example, while you are sleeping and completely unaware of a disaster.

What kind of security do you have if the accident occurs while your children are at school? Will your children know what to do if they are home by themselves? We were told that if you smell this chemical, by then it is too late; there is nothing you can do.

We were also informed that it would be unwise to try to run if an emergency should arise.

We need to send BGE a message and let it know that we are not going to let this happen.

Your help is needed. Please come to any meetings and sign the petitions against this.

Gayle Westcott

Clearwater Beach

Bicycling improves air, while improving fitness

Regarding Anne Arundel County's air pollution problem and the Question of the Month:

Bicycling to work is a fantastic way to save gas money, get exercise, save wear and tear on your car, reduce your stress levels from work, reduce traffic congestion, be pollution free and live a longer, healthy life.

So why aren't thousands of Anne Arundel County commuters using bikes instead of cars?

Well, there is a fear of traffic, poor road-shoulder conditions, it looks hard, there are no showers at work and it lacks status (only people who can't afford cars ride bikes).

I ride 23 miles each way to work. It takes me just a bit over an hour. Figure this effort against going to a health club. You drive there, change clothes, work out, shower and change again, then drive home. Time: at least an hour, plus it costs you a lot of money, you polluted the air and you never got anywhere useful to boot.

Most people live close enough to bicycle to work, but I believe we will never see our car-encased neighbors on their bikes because they still consider bicycles toys rather than serious transportation.

Here are just several of many solutions in getting folks to at least try human-powered commuting:

1. Give businesses a tax credit to install showers for their employees who run, walk, skate or cycle to work. Also give this credit to businesses with showers already in use for employees. At least this will eliminate the "I can't go to work sweaty" excuse.

2. To reduce the fear factor, provide county/state funding for a widely advertised campaign in effective cycling. These classes teach excellent traffic and bike handling techniques. The program would immediately pay for itself with fewer visits to emergency rooms, not to mention the long-term health-care savings from a fit bicycling public.

3. Recumbent bikes may be one answer to the "It's too uncomfortable" excuse. With less wind resistance while sitting upright in an ergonomic, comfortable car-like seat, recumbents are destined to become very popular road bikes.

In my 20 years of bicycle commuting, cycling has never been taken seriously by our citizens nor has it ever been a state priority. Cyclists are considered a fringe group who get leftovers in transportation funding.

Bigger, more powerful cars, SUVs and continued suburban development will always proliferate as the state and counties continue to give lip service to really reducing pollution.

With the new state law creating a director of bicycle and pedestrian access, a long-range statewide bicycle and pedestrian master plan with funding to fulfill the yearly plan goals, maybe we can begin to see cyclists in a new light as pollution-free and healthy transportation leaders.

M. Gregory Cantori

Pasadena

Carpooling presents problems for commuters

This letter is in response to the Anne Arundel Question of the Month concerning air pollution.

Carpooling could possibly help to reduce air pollution.

However, I hesitate to try finding a carpool because I fear my driving habits would not be compatible with other members of the carpool. (Not everyone can drive safely at breakneck speed.)

There are other problems with carpooling. What happens when one has to leave work early or arrive late because of a doctor's appointment? What about working parents who have to drive their children to day-care facilities before going to work?

Perhaps if these concerns were addressed, more people would be willing to carpool.

Anne McKnew

Riviera Beach

No coerced praying in student-led activity

Dan Bridgewater's letter concerning school prayer ("School prayer imposes worship on captive audience," July 15) contains errors and misstatements that merit examination.

Mr. Bridgewater spoke of "being forced to pray" but is either ignorant of or oblivious to the fact that there was no coercion -- no obligation of any sort -- to participate in any prayer activity. There was liberty to join in praying or to abstain, according to the dictates of one's conscience.

He wrote about the government dictating the time and place of prayer and its content, yet the prayer in question was student led and initiated. It wasn't the government leading or directing prayer.

Mr. Bridgewater spoke of the government delegating "prohibited prayers" to the student. This is simple obfuscation. If there had been any such delegation, the prayers would not have been student initiated. There was no act of delegation on the part of any agent of the state.

The Supreme Court's recent ruling has sought to establish boundaries relative to student-led prayer. Doubtless these boundaries will be further defined and tested in the court system.

But student-led (and initiated) prayer is far from banned and is certainly not unlawful or unconstitutional in all settings and circumstances.

David P. Gilmore

Glen Burnie

Party conventions still serve purpose

Political party conventions today usually do not require a second ballot. Nominations are usually decided, as they were this year, by early March. If this is so, and conventions have evolved into marketing vehicles aimed at a TV audience, why hold them? Haven't they become anachronisms and a waste of money?

In fact, conventions do matter, and most of the 2,066 delegates who will gather in the First Union Center in Philadelphia on July 31 worked hard to get there. I campaigned door-to-door to ensure that I would be elected one of Maryland's 31 delegates. This convention will be my seventh, but the attraction of attending a convention has not diminished. In fact, knowing that I can play a role in helping generate momentum that will propel my party's nominee into the White House makes this convention especially important.

The media are the central element of a convention. The overriding goal of political strategists is to make the event as attractive as possible to the networks and present the imagery that conveys the most positive messages about the candidates.

Sometimes the convention choreography gets out of hand. The youth squads that are recruited to cheer on cue at the convention occasionally have cheered too long and helped push important speeches out of prime time. Behind the orchestrated symbolism, the ubiquitous schmoozing and the wide-angle shot on a television screen, there is important work going on at a convention. Being able to network and make political contacts with people from all over the country is one of the main reasons people campaign to be a convention delegate.

While nominating conventions have become scripted, the drafting of a party platform or party rules can be serious business at the time of the convention.

In 1998, I drafted platform planks that called for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the protection of Coast Guard facilities, such as the one in Curtis Bay, from budget cuts.

Lacking suspense, but always exciting, the national political convention will be part of the American landscape for some time to come.

John R. Leopold

Annapolis

The writer is a state delegate from Anne Arundel County.

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