HAGERSTOWN — Opponents of plans to burn hazardous waste in cement kilns urged lawmakers Saturday to derail the project until a study committee can determine if the process is safe.
About 400 residents turned out at South Hagerstown High for a hearing on a bill by Rep. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, to put a statewide three-year ban on burning hazardous wastes in cement kilns. The bill proposes a state committee to study the issue.
Testimony also was heard on a bill sponsored by Sens. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and John W. Derr, R-Frederick, to prohibit burning of hazardous wastes within a half-mile of populated areas.
Independent Cement Corp. of Washington County is considering burning hazardous waste in its cement kiln. Lehigh Portland Cement Co. had similar plans for its Union Bridge plant, but last summer withdrew a permitapplication from the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Morethan two dozen people, including five from a Carroll group that fought the Lehigh plans, supported the bills Saturday.
"We feel the citizens have nothing to gain, but everything to lose," said Debbie Doxzon of Union Bridge, a member of Residents for a Healthier Union Bridge Area. "It's time we take responsibility for our actions and their outcomes."
ICC officials said the process is a safe and efficient way to eliminate hazardous wastes.
Advocates of using cement kilnsfor waste incineration say the process is safe because the kilns burn so hot -- about 3,400 degrees Fahrenheit -- that the chemicals are destroyed.
Opponents say data on health effects is not complete.
"The state of Maryland needs regulations now to protect its citizens," said Kent Doxzon of Union Bridge. "If the EPA's not going to protect the people, then we desperately need state legislators to protectour people."
Supporters of the Senate bill urged lawmakers to expand the safety zone beyond a half-mile.
"If these toxic chemicals are dangerous, they're dangerous beyond that," said Julian Stein of Union Bridge, a RHUBA member.
Stein said he's glad the matter is inthe public forum.
"This has finally become, and thank God, an issue the entire state is paying attention to, and not just a little corner of Carroll County and not just a little corner of Washington County."