BGE to proceed with system installation

Critics raise alarm about Arundel risks

July 01, 2000|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

In a letter to neighbors of its northeastern Anne Arundel County power plants, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said yesterday it will move forward with installation of pollution-control equipment using a hazardous form of ammonia, but adding that it may be needed for no more than three years.

The $100 million system being installed at the coal-fired Brandon Shores plant - needed to meet new standards for nitrogen oxide emissions in five warm-weather months - has raised concern because of the need to truck in anhydrous ammonia.

BGE has been urged to consider using more recent technology employing a non-hazardous form of ammonia that is being tested at a Massachusetts power plant.

"We have been tracking this technology closely," David W. Parks, BGE's director of environmental services, wrote of the newer ammonia-on-demand, or AOD, system.

If that process proves to be successful, he added, BGE will install AOD technology at the neighboring coal-fired Wagner plant in 2002. And if AOD works there during the summer of 2002, the company "will retrofit Brandon Shores with AOD by 2004 at the very latest."

But some community leaders who have voiced concern with the company's plan to use anhydrous ammonia said yesterday they are not assuaged by BGE's latest correspondence.

"We can't rely on them to switch over when they get this system in," said Casper Hackmann, a representative of the Solley Civic Association. "I'll only believe it when I see it. And it may be too late then."

The BGE letter comes after a meeting last week of company officials and representatives of neighborhood associations, during which BGE explained its efforts to comply with summer emission standards and outlined safety measures.

This week, area legislators signed a letter to BGE drafted by Del. John R. Leopold, a District 31 Republican, urging the company to reconsider its use of the anhydrous ammonia system. "Clearly, its use at Brandon Shores poses risks to plant employees, area school children, as well as to the residents of surrounding communities," said the letter, also signed by District 31's state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Dels. Mary M. Rosso and Joan Cadden, all Democrats.

BGE officials have noted measures they will implement at Brandon Shores, as well as their using a supplier who transports only anhydrous ammonia for the daily shipment of the pressurized gas.

Residents are concerned about the possibility of anhydrous ammonia leaking, either through an accident in Brandon Shores or as trucks transport the material. Legislators also wrote this week to the State Highway Administration requesting traffic-safety adjustments around the plant.

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