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Wheelabrator needs to take responsibility for its contributions to bad air quality

Dante Swinton, an organizer with The Energy Justice Network, leads college students on a "toxic tour" of polluting sites in Baltimore. The Energy Justice Network always starts the tour at the Wheelabrator incinerator, which was long known as BRESCO.

We expected Wheelabrator to fabricate direct mailings and distribute false facts (“Baltimore City Council gives preliminary OK to tighter air standards for Wheelabrator trash incinerator,” Feb. ). In the press and halls of government, Wheelabrator minces words and occasionally flat out lies when forced to take responsibility for the consequences of its industry. For example, its website erroneously labels incineration clean energy. All specialists know that among various waste disposal (and energy generation) technologies, incineration is by far the most toxic (and least efficient). Furthermore, incineration does not reduce waste. By volume (very roughly) garbage intake becomes 30 percent ash and 70 percent exhaust — both dramatically more toxic.

Language allows for incomplete or interpreted statements, but numbers don’t lie. The fact that Wheelabrator wants nothing to do with 24-hour monitoring of its emissions says enough — it has too much to hide. But we understand Wheelabrator: to be candid would be to acknowledge your basal role in making Baltimore’s air some of the nation’s worst. Like most incinerators, you prefer the Trojan horse strategy of selling yourself as a necessary (untrue) service to society in order to profit at Baltimore’s expense.

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More than half of the intake could be recycled or composted, yet Wheelabrator argues that a large enough reuse and recycling infrastructure does not yet exist in Baltimore. Maybe that is because Wheelabrator exists! It is one of the causes, not an alternative solution. Large scale incineration gives society an excuse to not recycle, the way each garbage can gives each pedestrian an excuse to not notice each recycle bin next to it. Problems precede solutions, and the most successful reduce, reuse and recycle projects in this country have all been necessary solutions to trash crises. Baltimore must dispose of incineration if it is to construct a sustainable reuse and recycle infrastructure. Until then this will be harm city, not charm city.

Kevin Kriescher, Baltimore

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