BGE plan draws fire

Pollution control would rely on use of anhydrous ammonia

Alternative exists

Legislators worry about traffic flow near utility plant

June 30, 2000|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Concerns about the safety of a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. plan to truck anhydrous ammonia to its Brandon Shores power plant for a new pollution-control system have prompted a pair of letters from area legislators: one urging the use of alternative technology, the other addressing a highway traffic issue.

The letters were drafted this week by Democratic Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Republican Del. John R. Leopold, both of the 31st District, and also were signed by the district's other delegates, Democrats Mary M. Rosso and Joan Cadden.

They follow by several days a meeting at which BGE officials talked to representatives of neighboring communities about the company's efforts to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions through a new $100 million system that uses anhydrous ammonia, a pressurized form of the gas.

Both letters reflect concerns that the hazardous anhydrous ammonia used in BGE's new environmentally improved process could end up in the air itself - with harmful results for surrounding areas.

The traffic issue was addressed to Tom Hicks, director of the State Highway Administration's Office of Traffic and Safety, seeking an exclusive left-turn signal at Fort Smallwood Road and Energy Parkway - the intersection where trucks carrying anhydrous ammonia would be turning once a day into the power plant complex along the Patapsco River.

The letter alluded to a traffic accident at the intersection Jan. 10 in which an infant was killed as his mother turned onto Energy Parkway and her car and a school bus collided.

"One of the primary concerns of the community is the transportation of this highly toxic substance to the BGE complex," the letter says. "The concerns are heightened by the seriousness of the recent accident that resulted from limited sight distance of the left turning vehicle."

The other letter, drafted by Leopold, urges BGE to adopt a new technology to avoid any potential problems. Already used by a Massachusetts power plant, the recently developed alternative process incorporates a solid - and benign - form of ammonia. "This course of action by BGE will eliminate the risk posed by the ammonia system at Brandon Shores and will do much to convince the local communities that BGE values their safety," the letter says.

BGE officials have said they will look into the alternative process, which makes use of technology that was not available when the company made its decision about the method using anhydrous ammonia. The company is installing new equipment to meet summertime emission standards that will take effect next year.

The company also has emphasized the safety procedures that would be implemented with adoption of the anhydrous ammonia process, such as containing accidental release of fumes, and neutralizing the vapor so it cannot catch fire.

The legislators have expressed concern that evacuating residents in the event of an accident would be difficult.

"The roads into and out of some of these communities are totally inadequate for a large scale evacuation in the event of a major ammonia release," the legislators wrote in the letter to BGE, "which means the residents are at the mercy of the prevailing wind."

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