Schmoke's incinerator bill opposed in council

November 28, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

BALTIMORE CITY — Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday come out wit another proposal to expand the amount of medical waste burned at the Hawkins Point incinerator, but it immediately ran into trouble in the City Council.

Mr. Schmoke's latest bill would allow the incinerator to accept waste from four more counties.

But following a two-hour meeting with citizens, City Council members and waste-industry representatives, Council President Mary Pat Clarke asked the administration to reconsider the bill in light of new information about the incinerator's operation. "I'm not trying to be obstreperous, but this is the sore that will not heal," Mrs. Clarke said of the incinerator, owned by Medical Waste Associates and the subject of a series of lawsuits and an angry outpouring of community opposition.

"I'm officially asking you to take back the bill," she said to Roger Nissly, the mayor's legislative assistant attending the meeting.

But Mr. Nissly told Mrs. Clarke that the administration would be unable to answer her request until Monday -- the day after Mr. Schmoke returns from a week-long trade mission to India and the day the bill was to be introduced.

The legislation would expand the areas allowed to send medical waste to the incinerator to include Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard and Carroll counties. Currently, only Baltimore City and Baltimore Anne Arundel and Harford counties can legally send waste to Hawkins Point.

The administration's latest proposal is a scaled-down version of a bill the withdrew last month at Mrs. Clarke's request, after vehement community opposition. That bill would have allowed the incinerator to accept waste from the entire state.

The reason Mrs. Clarke asked the administration to reconsider the latest bill is that community activists have found discrepancies in information provided by the company about the amount of medical waste burned at the incinerator.

The company has told city officials it burns 59 tons of waste a day, on average, from Baltimore and the three counties allowed to send waste to Hawkins Point. It also acknowledges burning another 30 tons a day from out of state, a practice the city is trying to stop with a pending lawsuit. But activists who have reviewed transportation manifests at the state Department of the Environment said yesterday they calculate the amount burned from the authorized area alone to be at least 86 tons a day, based on loads taken to the incinerator in October.

City Auditor Allan L. Reynolds, who reviewed the company's records earlier this month at the mayor's request, found that Medical Waste Associates' accounting records "are in terrible hTC shape," according to an analysis released yesterday.

Officials of Medical Waste Associates and the Maryland Hospital Association -- whose members have contracts with the Hawkins Point facility -- maintain that the incinerator needs more business because it is losing money.

Initially, the incinerator expected to receive 63.2 tons of waste daily from its authorized area. That would have generated $7 million a year in revenue -- enough to pay off company start-up loans and turn a profit.

But while company officials say they finally began taking in 63.2 tons a day in July, other unexpected costs require that they take in more waste.

Meanwhile, Schmoke administration officials acknowledged yesterday that a city judge this week granted a 90-day postponement in deciding a case in which the city sued Medical Waste Associates to prevent the limited partnership from continuing to burn waste transported from out of state, in violation of city law.

The delay -- the second requested by the administration in a month because of opposition to the proposed bills -- means that Medical Waste Associates can continue to burn out-of-state waste at the incinerator.

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