Residents oppose incinerator's plan to import medical waste, double amount of refuse burned

November 21, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

Dozens of residents and elected officials bitterly criticized the operators of Baltimore's Hawkins Point medical waste incinerator last night for their plans to receive waste from anywhere in the country and, in the process, nearly double the amount of refuse they burn.

A City Council bill introduced last month would allow the incinerator, for the first time, to receive medical waste from outside Maryland.

The bill is sponsored by all three council members from the 6th District -- Melvin Stukes, Dr. Norman A. Handy Sr. and Edward L. Reisinger -- where the incinerator is situated. But if last night's rancorous meeting at a Brooklyn church is any indication, the measure will face serious opposition from constituents.

Neither Handy nor Stukes attended the meeting, and shortly after Reisinger started speaking, several of the approximately 100 attendees from Brooklyn and Curtis Bay responded with objections and insults, drowning him out.

Richard D. Montgomery, president of the incinerator company, Phoenix Services Inc., and Paul Shelton, an attorney representing the company, argued that the bill would benefit the community. If the bill passes, Phoenix has said, it will spend $50,000 a year for 18 years on neighborhood projects and hire employees from the area.

The incinerator is losing money because it is burning 65 tons of medical waste with its 150-ton daily capacity. The company is limited by statute to taking in waste from a handful of Maryland counties. Shelton said that to make a profit, the incinerator needs to be able to receive waste from hospital chains in various states.

Shelton also said that Phoenix should not be held responsible for the incinerator's first operator, Medical Waste Associates. That company, which filed for bankruptcy, was caught illegally importing out-of-state waste. Shelton noted that Phoenix had paid back taxes and honored other financial commitments to the city.

But residents charged that additional burning would mean more pollution, and several expressed concern about the high cancer rate in an area that has several chemical and waste companies.

"When is enough, enough?" asked Dolores Barnes, president of the Concerned Citizens of Better Brooklyn.

Some elected officials backed the residents.

"We don't believe a word you're saying," said state Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat.

He threatened to "cook up" state legislation on the incinerator if the council bill wins approval. "You might have hoodwinked some of the elected officials in the City Council, but you haven't hoodwinked the representatives in Annapolis," he said.

Del. Timothy D. Murphy, also a Baltimore Democrat, stared at Montgomery and said, "I think you ought to cut your losses, close your doors and go someplace else."

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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