Schmoke reconsidering medical waste bill

November 03, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

Apparently bowing to criticism, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has put the brakes on a proposal that would allow medical waste to be transported to a controversial Hawkins Point incinerator from all around the state until he gets specific tonnage and dollar figures about the operation.

Mr. Schmoke planned to propose legislation two weeks ago that would have expanded the incinerator's "catchment area" to all of Maryland -- instead of just from hospitals in the city and three surrounding counties.

News of that proposal surprised City Council members and residents and sparked a controversy that caused Mr. Schmoke to withdraw his request for the bill's introduction.

And now, after hearing concerns from the 6th District's council members at a meeting last Monday and receiving complaints from angry residents, Mr. Schmoke is reconsidering the proposed legislation.

"The mayor has decided to hold the bill until we get some additional information on . . . how much it costs to operate it [and] what additional tonnage does it need to meet its expenses and/or operate profitably," said Peter N. Marudas, Mr. Schmoke's legislative liaison.

City law currently allows hospitals from Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties -- 20 in all -- to transport their waste to the incinerator.

Initially the incinerator's owner-operator, Medical Waste Associates, said the current tonnage would generate a profit, but firm officials now claim it is too small.

Officials of the Maryland Hospital Association -- who asked Mr. Schmoke to introduce the bill -- fear that the incinerator will close. The facility handles 67 tons of infectious and non-infectious waste daily.

Area residents are wary of the proposed bill because it would allow the owner to continue bringing in out-of-state waste, a violation of city law and the subject of a city lawsuit pending in Circuit Court.

"Certainly it's a small victory, because it will give us time to argue our case, but it's aggravating to us that they are given an entire extra month to bring in waste from out of state," said Mary Rosso, president of the Maryland Waste Coalition, which has opposed the incinerator.

On Friday, a city circuit judge had been expected to order Medical Waste Associates to stop importing out-of-state medical waste. But Mr. Schmoke asked the judge to defer any action until he gets answers about the incinerator's operation and decides whether to go ahead with the council bill, which could mean the dismissal of the case. The judge agreed to a 30-day delay.

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