The owners of a Hawkins Point incinerator want a zoning law, which bars the facility from accepting out-of-state medical wastes, declaredunconstitutional.
Medical Waste Associates asked the U.S. District Court yesterday to strike a clause in the Baltimore City ordinance that says the $26 million incinerator can only accept hospital refusegenerated in the city and Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.
Jervis S. Finney, a lawyer representing Medical Waste Associates,said that clause violates the federal interstate commerce protections of the U.S. Constitution.
Finney announced that his client had filed the lawsuit during a hearing before the Baltimore Board of Zoning Appeals.
A Baltimore zoning inspector ruled in March that Medical Waste Associates violated the geographic limitation placed on the incinerator when the City Council approved its construction in 1989.
Medical Waste Associates appealed that ruling March 18, leading to yesterday's hearing.
The incinerator, capable of burning 150 tons of waste per day, sits in Baltimore City, adjacent to the Anne Arundel County line.
Initially, representatives of Medical Waste Associates told city officials they were only burning the out-of-state refuse to test the recently constructed incinerator, said David Tanner, chief of city zoning administration and enforcement.
But, the privately held incinerator continues to burn trash from as far away as Maine, neighboring residents and city officials said.
Although the incinerator received its final state approvals May 16, Tanner said he denied the facility an occupancy permit because he believed Medical Waste Associates would continue to violate the zoning ordinance.
Finney countered that Medical Waste Associates has "complied to the degree it need comply with all the valid and constitutional conditions placed upon us."
Board members questioned why Medical Waste Associates had not challenged the constitutionality of the 1989 law until now.
"Why didn't you bring up your position when the bill was presented for you," said chairwoman Gia Blatterman. "At that time, your building was not intended for interstate commerce. It wasn't intended for out-of-state waste."
Finney said he would not respond until the issue was heard in court.
But, residents, who fear pollution and contamination from the facility, and city officials said Medical Wastes Associates was well aware of the geographic limitation in the law. They said the company lobbied extensively for the law, without which itcouldn't have built the incinerator.
"We are very disappointed and the community demands that the facility be shut down," said DeloresBarnes, president of Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn.
"Frankly, there was quite a bit of concern that just this type of thingcould happen," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.
"To go to the extent of breaking an agreement with the community, the (region's hospitals), the planning commission, the mayor and the council is a great breach of faith," she said.
"It's such a breach that I,for one, a member of the council, would not hesitate to rescind the entire ordinance and avoid a costly struggle in the federal courts," Clarke said.
Sandy Scutman, a city attorney, said if the court does strike down the geographic limitation, the entire ordinance may fall