Incinerator bill reaches council, but fate is uncertain BALTIMORE CITY

December 01, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

An article in The Sun yesterday reported incorrectly that the Baltimore City Council is weighing a bill that would allow an incinerator to accept medical waste from Harford County. In fact, Harford now can use the incinerator; Howard County would be added under the bill.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

A proposal by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to expand the area from which medical waste could be accepted at a Hawkins Point incinerator was introduced last night in the City Council, despite the council president's request that the administration reconsider the measure.

The bill, introduced at the request of the Maryland Hospital Association, would allow the controversial incinerator to accept waste from four more counties -- Montgomery, Prince George's, Carroll and Harford. Currently, only Baltimore and Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties can legally send waste to Hawkins Point.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

As expected, the bill immediately drew opposition from council members of the 6th District -- where the plant is located -- one of whom called its introduction "premature."

"I strenuously object to introduction" of the bill, said Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th. Given community opposition to any expansion, "it's introduction at this point . . . is premature."

Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, D-6th, echoed Mr. Murphy, urging that the council not act in haste.

"This is too important. The community spoke [against the incinerator] two years ago . . . but the community's voice was not heard," Mr. Stukes said.

Mr. Murphy complained that citizens groups and council members "were guaranteed" an "independent appraisal" of information on the plant's financial state and operations by Mr. Schmoke. But that information, supplied to the mayor's office by Medical Waste Associates, the incinerator owner, became available to the public only last Tuesday.

In fact, the reason Council President Mary Pat Clarke asked the ** administration Friday to reconsider the latest bill is that community activists say they have found discrepancies in information provided by the company about the amount of medical waste burned at the incinerator.

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

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

Peter N. Marudas, Mr. Schmoke's legislative liaison, said questions raised by Mrs. Clarke and the community over tonnage figures supplied by the company and operations at the plant would be better raised at a committee hearing. "The hospital association says they need it, and the administration says the preliminary indication is that it's warranted," Mr. Marudas said.

So, Mrs. Clarke, who as the council's presiding officer introduces administration bills as a legislative courtesy to the mayor, put forward the legislation last night.

But she then assigned the bill to the Land Use Committee, chaired by Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, and some members suggested the legislation might languish in that committee.

In the past, legislation about the Hawkins Point incinerator was considered by both Mr. Ambridge's committee and the Health and Environment Committee, chaired by Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd.

The administration's latest proposal is a scaled-down version of a bill withdrawn 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.

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