The city Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals has denied an occupancy permit for a Hawkins Point medical-waste
incinerator, dealing another setback to the $27 million project.
The zoning board rejected the permit request in a decision released Wednesday because the owners of the recently built incinerator have not complied with a city law regulating waste that comes to the plant.
Incinerator owners say they will appeal the board's decision to Baltimore Circuit Court.
A 1989 ordinance limits the incinerator to burning trash from hospitals in the city and in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties.
Despite that restriction, owners of the incinerator have been burning medical waste from out of state. They said they needed to go beyond the law to have enough waste to complete state environmental tests and performance tests required by bond holders in the project.
The tests, which require that the incinerator burn trash at close to its 150 tons-a-day capacity, will continue while the case is appealed, incinerator owners said.
"If there is not enough waste in the four jurisdictions, where do we go to get it?" asked William Boucher 3rd, chairman of Medical Waste Associates, the group that built the incinerator.
The firm is appealing a federal judge's decision that rejected its challenge to the city ordinance restricting the flow of trash to the incinerator. MWA challenged the law in a federal lawsuit, saying the ordinance is unconstitutional because it restricts interstate commerce.
Without accepting waste from outside the region, the incinerator may not be able to turn a profit, Boucher said. To date, he said, the amount of trash that comes to the plant from 19 area hospitals is 28 percent less than had been anticipated.
"We want to operate a regional facility," Boucher said. "We don't want to be an Eastern United States facility. But the region has got to have enough waste to . . . operate the plant efficiently."
The zoning board decision is the latest problem for the incinerator, which was built with the strong support of Mayor Kurt Schmoke despite intense criticism from area neighborhood and environmental groups.