The news yesterday that the Brandon Shores power plant has been listed as one of the dirtiest in the nation came as no surprise to Anne Arundel County residents living within sight of its smokestacks.
"We've been saying that for years," said Mary Rosso, who lives about a mile from the plant. "This is by no means a shock to any of us. Not even close to a shock."
For years, residents of the neighborhoods west and south of the sprawling plant -- Solley, Stoney Beach, Orchard Beach and Chestnut Hill Cove -- have organized grass-roots campaigns and community meetings to demand that something be done to improve air quality in the area.
The residents have been anything but satisfied with the response from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which owns the coal-burning plant.
Residents were furious with BGE long before yesterday's report.
"I think it's criminal what they are doing to these neighborhoods," said Rosso, a Democrat from the Silver Sands community off Solley Road who is running for a 31st District seat in the House of Delegates. "They should have to take some responsibility for the consequences of that plant on this area."
Residents say the plant causes offensive smells, breathing problems and burning eyes, and they complain that the area has an increased incidence of cancer.
"I've been outside and forced in because my eyes are stinging so much," Rosso said.
Word that the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington had categorized Brandon Shores as one of the dirtiest power plants in the nation came on a sweltering morning, with a "red alert" for air pollution in effect throughout the Baltimore area.
After hearing about the report, Wendy Anthony, 54, of Riviera Beach, thought back to decades ago when her children could walk to nearby beaches and go crabbing or fishing.
"Now no one would eat anything out of that water," she said, adding that she believes the plant is "at least partly responsible."
Depending on which way the wind is blowing, Anthony said, an oily black dust settles on her patio furniture.
"It's a real job to get that off of there," she said. "You'll scrub and scrub, but it will just smear. It's almost like trying to rub lipstick off something. It just wants to stick on there."
Anthony and her husband, John, own two white cars, which are impossible to keep clean, she said. And the family's white dog, which died recently, would get caked with black grime when allowed to stay outside, she said.
"It's really not a good situation," Anthony said. "It can be a terrible mess. And that isn't even talking about the toxic odor. That can be atrocious. Thank God for central air conditioning."
Air monitoring demanded
For years, environmental activists have been demanding that an air-monitoring system be installed at Fort Armistead Park at Hawkins Point, about two miles north of the plant.
"We need to see just how bad the air quality really is getting," Rosso said.
The latest point of contention between environmental activists and BGE has been a fly ash disposal site off Solley Road, near the Brandon Shores plant.
BGE wants to dump millions of tons of fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal, as fill material without installing a multimillion-dollar clay liner.
Residents say a liner would better protect against ground water and soil contamination.
"It all comes down to responsibility," Rosso said. "Is BGE willing to take it? Or better yet, will a report like this force them to take it?"
Pub Date: 6/26/98