Maryland Orders Halt to Construction of Largest Incinerator in U.S.

BALTIMORE, MD. —   The Maryland Department of the Environment has ordered a temporary halt to the construction of the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator, proposed for the Fairfield neighborhood of south Baltimore, and fines for the incinerator’s New York-based developer.

The violation notice and stop-work order are a major victory for the people in the neighborhood of Curtis Bay and surrounding areas, many of whom are worried about mercury and other toxic pollution that would pour out of the smokestack of the Energy Answers LLC incinerator if it is built.

“This incinerator will be the largest in the nation in an area already struggling with air pollution,” said Leah Kelly, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

On June 19, 2014, the Maryland Department of the Environment sent a violation notice to Energy Answers, saying the company faces fines of up to $25,000 per day for failing to follow a key requirement of its air pollution control permit. The permit requires the company to pay into a program to reduce air pollution by purchasing what are called pollution “offsets” or credits.

“The failure to purchase pollution offsets calls into question the validity of the construction permit, as well as the company’s ability to comply with the Clean Air Act going forward,” said Kelly of the Environmental Integrity project.  “It is especially important that Energy Answers follow the law since this will be one of the State’s largest sources of mercury and other dangerous pollution so close to schools.”

The proposed incinerator will be located within one mile of the Benjamin Franklin School and Curtis Bay Elementary School. Several additional public and parochial schools are located in the nearby Brooklyn and Curtis Bay neighborhoods.

The failure of Energy Answers to obtain “pollution offsets” for fine particulate pollution, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides prior to construction of the incinerator is a serious violation.  Under the federal Clean Air Act, large new sources of air pollution in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards must offset their pollution by purchasing pollution reductions from other air pollution sources.  Baltimore is a nonattainment area for ozone and for fine particulate pollution, which is especially harmful for children and the elderly.

Fine particulate pollution can worsen asthma, and cause premature death, heart attacks, and difficulty breathing.  Ozone can cause a variety of health problems including throat irritation, coughing, congestion, and chest pain, and worsen existing conditions like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

In addition to burning pulverized municipal waste, the Energy Answers incinerator would burn shredded automobiles, discarded tires, wood waste, and construction debris, in a neighborhood that is already overburdened with toxic pollution.

Read this MDE letter on the incinerator violations.