Drive down Interstate 95 through Baltimore and you can’t miss the Wheelabrator trash incinerator, its smokestack emblazoned with the city’s name. The Charm City’s single largest source of industrial air pollution churns out well over 600,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
In 2017, those emissions were equivalent to what’s given off by more than 130,000 cars driven for a year. It is also one of Maryland’s major sources of nitrogen oxides — a principal component of smog. One analysis estimates the facility’s air pollution kills an estimated 5.5 people per year.
James Alston is a resident of the South Baltimore neighborhood of Westport. He resides roughly five blocks from the incinerator in a home where his family has lived since 1967. From his front porch, the smokestack is clearly visible. On bad days, he says, a rancid overpowering odor wafts over from the facility to his community. When he learned how much pollution comes from the Wheelabrator site — and its potential health impacts — he thought of neighbors who had died. Could they have lived longer lives if it weren’t for the facility?
“They’re here, and they pollute, and from what I gather... Read more