Legislation designed to protect Baltimore neighborhoods from toxic air pollution by creating "buffer" strips around industrial plants that use dangerous chemicals was introduced yesterday in the Baltimore City Council.
The proposal is aimed at answering the complaints of residents in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay area, who say that the large number of chemical factories, coal facilities, oil terminals and other gritty industrial plants in the neighborhood are polluting the air.
"These community groups need our help," said Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, D-6th, the author of the buffer-zone legislation. "I think these bills will give it to them."
The bill would prevent firms that use chemicals designated as environmental hazards by the State of Maryland from locating within buffer zones without first getting council approval.
Council approval in the form of a conditional use permit also would be needed for existing facilities before they would be permitted to expand.
A group of businesses calling itself the Alliance for South Baltimore's Future is strongly opposed to the zoning effort, however, saying it would strangle chemical-dependent business as familiar as dry-cleaning plants by inhibiting their ability to expand and by reducing the value of their land.
"It's going to impose some drastic limits and regulations on companies in South Baltimore," said Gerald T. McPhee, a spokesman for the Kentucky-based Island Creek Corporation, the parent company of the Curtis Bay Coal company.
A lobbyist for the group also said that studies done by the Maryland Department of the Environment indicate that airborne pollutants are no greater a problem in South Baltimore than they are downtown.
The Maryland Department of the Environment monitors the presence of airborne chemicals from four stations in the city.
But Michael P. Sullivan, a spokesman for the department, said that the data have not been analyzed and "we have not done the work to rank South Baltimore with other neighborhoods."