Residents who live near Baltimore's industrial underbelly voiced overwhelming support last night for a bill that would impose a five-year moratorium on the construction of incinerators in the city.
At a packed City Council hearing on the bill, supporters said a moratorium is needed to give city officials time to sort out Baltimore's trash-disposal needs and to encourage recycling. They also said they were tired of their neighborhoods being used as a dumping ground for the region.
"Why not think about what is best for Baltimore?" asked Margaret Johnson, a fifth-grader at Brehms Lane Elementary School. "More recycling. Less incineration."
Margaret was joined by Benjamin Lefstein, a fellow student at Brehms Lane, who drew loud applause when he read an essay saying that recycling is the environmentally preferable alternative to incineration, a process he described as poisonous.
"Recycling will never become a reality in Baltimore if incinerator capacity is increased," added Billie Mitchell, president of the Highlandtown Community Association.
While most private citizens who spoke or submitted testimony last night supported the moratorium, the proposal was panned by industry experts, incinerator operators, the state Department of the Environment and the Schmoke administration -- all of whom said a moratorium would needlessly limit the city's options for trash disposal.
"I am opposed to the bill because I believe that it represents an unwise and potentially damaging approach to environmental management for the city of Baltimore and the metropolitan region," said M. Gordon Wolman, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.