Seizing on the 23rd observance of Earth Day, federal, state and local officials have announced a series of steps aimed at cleaning up Baltimore, including a new study of the health and environmental risks faced by urban residents.
But the announcement yesterday struck a sour note with some environmentalists, who accused officials of dodging their responsibilities to crack down on pollution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it has chosen Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to launch a new program aimed at identifying and reducing the public health and environmental hazards to which city dwellers may be exposed.
The EPA plans to spend $400,000 in the next year to assess the risks for the cities' residents, officials said.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke also unveiled his second annual list of environmental "initiatives" for the city. The plans include cleaning up buildings contaminated with asbestos and other hazardous materials, removing leaking underground fuel tanks and reducing emissions from the city's fleet of cars and trucks by buying cleaner vehicles.
David Monsma, a spokesman for the Environmental Action Foundation in Takoma Park, charged that the EPA study is intended to "lay the cost and blame for urban pollution on city inhabitants."
The foundation is giving "poisoned planet" awards today in Baltimore, including one to Willard Hackerman, the owner of the Pulaski incinerator, which has been cited repeatedly recently for air and water pollution violations.