Balto City Teens Tell MDE: “No Way to Polluting Trash Incinerator”

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For three years, Destiny Wapford has led the fight against Baltimore City's proposed Curtis Bay incinerator. Her last fight may be at the MDE this Tuesday at the Free Your Voice rally.
For three years, Destiny Watford has led the fight against Baltimore City’s proposed Curtis Bay incinerator. Her last fight may be this Tuesday at the MDE headquarters at Free Your Voice’s rally.

You may have heard the brouhaha surrounding the proposed Baltimore City waste-to-energy incinerator which is partially constructed in the Curtis Bay area? The incinerator’s 90-acre site is located in the Fairfield industrial area, which sits close to Brooklyn and Curtis Bay schools, homes and businesses. Curtis Bay’s incinerator would be Baltimore’s second waste-to-energy facility; Baltimore City’s trash is currently burned at the Wheelabrator incinerator next to Interstate 95.

If Curtis Bay’s youth have anything to say, the proposed largest-incinerator-in-the-U.S. will be a no-go. The community’s demand is that city officials and the private sector replace trashy development with cleaner and safer projects that don’t harm local residents. Burning 4,000 tons of tires and plastics every day emits toxic mercury and lead chemicals. Led by 20-year-old Destiny Watford, the well-organized Free Your Voice opposition plans a rally next Tuesday, December 15th at the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) headquarters to demand the incinerator be called off. Check out their video

Energy Answers International began incinerator construction in 2013, and it’s been a mess. Once local opposition became vocal in highlighting the negatives, local municipalities began canceling their long term electricity contracts. The project also forced government to tackle the question: Is waste incineration actually a renewable energy? Environmental groups have pushed back hard on Maryland’s including energy from an incinerator as renewable; incinerators emit pollution, and also create an ash by-product that gets landfilled. Energy Answers has been slow to build the plant, and at this point, their building permits have expired. MDE put the company on notice about the expired permits. The City Paper’s Trash Talk article dives into the project’s details.

The real heroes in this story are Baltimore City’s youth who organized into Free Your Voice with support from the United Workers. They’ve protested, demanded, and articulated the case against this incinerator. 

Their points are valid. The downside to the Energy Answers’ incinerator is the mercury and lead emissions generated from burning 4,000 pounds a day of trash would be greater than all of Maryland’s coal-fired power plants. How can it make sense that as our mayor joins world leaders in Paris to tackle climate change, Baltimore would support an unhealthy and polluting incinerator? Baltimore City already suffers twice the U.S. asthma – 20 percent of Baltimore City’s kids suffer from asthma. Lastly and importantly, Curtis Bay’s industrial area is ideal for green energy businesses which could help solve our planet’s climate change situation.

Destiny Watford weighs in, “This cycle of failed development puts our lives at risk in Curtis Bay. We’ve come together as a community to work for positive and fair development that makes our neighborhood better.”

Maybe on this Tuesday’s 6:00 TV news we will see Baltimore’s kids from Free Your Voice, Sierra Club members, and community activists, making their voices heard at the Maryland Department of the Environment’s headquarters?

Click here for rally details. We’ll post pictures, too.

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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the monthly environmental GreenLaurel column. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting. She co-wrote the Abell Foundation Report detailing Maryland's dysfunctional energy supplier marketplace and the negative outcomes for low-income households.
Laurel Peltier
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