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Baltimore leaders discuss medical waste incinerator in Curtis Bay as state sues over emissions

Baltimore leaders discuss medical waste incinerator in Curtis Bay as state sues over emissions
Baltimore leaders discuss medical waste incinerator in Curtis Bay as state sues over emissions 02:27

BALTIMORE -- The environmental impact of the nation's largest medical waste incinerator, located in South Baltimore, is under scrutiny again. 

A Baltimore City Council committee held an informational hearing on Wednesday to discuss the medical waste incinerator's impact and the role of local hospitals that use it.

"Three decades later, we're over that time, the facility has gone bankrupt, they're breaking the law importing illegally out of state medical waste, they have violated the mercury emissions limit over 400 times," said Greg Sawtell, from the Community of Curtis Bay Association.

This comes after the Maryland Department of the Environment filed a lawsuit last week against Curtis Bay Energy, which owns the Curtis Bay Medical Waste Incinerator off Hawkins Point Road.

"We are basically taking them to court to say no more," Secretary of the Environment Serena McIlwain said. "We will hold you accountable through enforcement."

The state aims to force the company to make necessary repairs and impose fines of up to $25,000 per violation. The complaint says the facility has continued to violate emission limits, including carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride.

According to MDE, one of the incidents under investigation involved a hopper fire on January 26. In January and February, there were twelve incidents where emissions went through the roof vents instead of passing through air pollution control equipment.

Community residents spotted this immediately.

Sawtell said residents are seeing heavy black smoke coming from the facility.

"What we've seen with our own eyes is hardly a day goes by where you can't see thick black smoke coming out of that facility," Sawtell said. "Not from the smoke stack. But from the building itself. Which means whatever is in that smoke isn't even being processed as it should be."

In October 2023, WJZ told you about this same incinerator and how it came under fire for environmental violations.

Curtis Bay Energy pleaded guilty to 40 criminal counts after failing to properly dispose of dangerous medical waste.They agreed to pay a one million dollar fine and $750,000 to an environmental program fund.

McIlwain said they hope this legal action will finally hold the company accountable.

"We can't continue to allow companies to pollute the communities, especially in those communities that have been victims for far too long," she said.

Related: 'It Affects My Health' | Protesters Call For BRESCO Trash Incinerator To Close

However, Sawtell is not hopeful that fines will stop this company. He said the facility came in 1989 and faced plenty of community and city leader pushback back then.

Since then, Sawtell says the facility has been cited multiple times for disrepair and violating emission limits, including mercury.

The community is demanding action from local leaders.

"Baltimore City needs to change the law back to the way it was to no longer allow Curtis Bay to be used as a dumping ground to import medical waste from all across the country and even Canada," Sawtell said.

Sawtell is also calling on Governor Wes Moore to get involved. He said they invited the governor five times to discuss the environmental issues in the South Baltimore and Curtis Bay area.

The community is now demanding the facility be eliminated, since time and time again, the facility is not operating as an environmentally friendly neighbor.

"Fines are nothing new and that's a representation of how blatant the facility has been with disregarding people's health," Sawtell said.

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