Limits eased on medical incinerator Waste could come from anywhere in U.S.

March 18, 1997|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Despite a glaring loophole that could allow Baltimore to become a dumping ground for medical waste from around the country, the City Council gave its blessing last night to easing the limits on an incinerator at Hawkins Point.

Detractors failed in a testy, last-minute attempt to correct the legislation's vague wording that opens the door for shipping in medical waste from anywhere in the nation.

The bill, given final approval in a 10-7 vote, allows the Hawkins Point Medical Waste Incinerator in South Baltimore to collect trash from any municipality within 250 miles instead of just a handful of Maryland counties.

But imprecise language would permit facilities in the enlarged catchment area to act as middlemen and transfer waste from elsewhere.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III snapped that his colleagues were forwarding to the mayor "grossly defective" legislation. First District Councilman John L. Cain, who tried to fix the wording, vowed to introduce a new amendment next week.

Tempers flared as the debate over closing the loophole turned into a point of personal pride.

Bell angrily called into question the actions of the bill's chief proponent, Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, who represents South Baltimore's 6th District.

"How can you say we waited too long and the error has to be continued?" he said. "How can you take your job seriously as a councilman?"

Stukes charged opponents were just trying to stall. He said he could not muster the 15 votes required by council rules to amend and vote on the bill the same night.

"I don't want to see it delayed one single day," he said.

Fourth District Councilwoman Sheila Dixon tried to cool emotions by saying there are no active transfer stations within the 250 miles. She also contended that illegally transporting medical waste across state lines is a federal crime.

But Cain disagreed, saying the Supreme Court has ruled against interstate commerce restrictions on solid waste.

The incinerator has been burning 67 tons of trash daily, far below the 150-ton-a-day limit set by the state.

Stukes and other supporters argued that the facility needed to take in more to become profitable.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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