BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When Malika Jones was growing up in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood, she would look up at Wheelabrator’s trash incinerator and ask her mother what it was.
“When I was little, I was told they were making clouds,” Jones laughed. Now, she said she knows more about what the incinerator is, and what it can do.
“If affects our children, it affects my health,” Jones said. Jones and her mother have asthma and her grandmother has developed COPD, or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Jones believes the health issues her family is suffering is due, largely, to the pollutants from Baltimore’s trash incinerator.
And she’s not alone.
Dozens of protestors lined up outside Wheelabrator’s BRESCO incinerator Wednesday, blocking the entrance for trash trucks waiting outside to drop off the city’s trash. The protestors were calling on BRESCO to close the incinerator.
The Wheelabrator incinerator has been in Baltimore for decades, sandwiched in between the city’s two sports stadiums.
“Our job is to process all of the trash in Baltimore and make electricity,” Austin Pritchard said, the Plant Manager for Wheelabrator Baltimore.
But the protestors believe the incinerator is affecting their health.
“Baltimore City has one of the highest asthma and cancer rates in the country,” said Marvin Hayes, who created Baltimore’s Compost Collective.
But Pritchard said his facility doesn’t pollute the environment as much as transportation does.
Advocates are pushing for zero waste but Wheelabrator said that is unrealistic for a city, like Baltimore that produces a lot of trash.
“People don’t understand what 2,250 tons of trash everyday looks like,” Pritchard added.
In a 2017 study on Baltimore’s Wheelabrator, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation linked it to health problems like asthma and chronic bronchitis costing $55 million a year. In 2019, an environmental study found Baltimore’s incinerator is among the world three in America for lead emissions.
Now, with COVID-19, people like Jones are even more scared.
“It’s not my fault that I live where I live, but it’s their fault they burn trash where they do,” she added.
The city’s contract with Wheelabrator ends in 2021. Brandon Scott, City Council President and Democratic nominee for Mayor, has said he will not renew the control.
In May, he said, “COVID-19 makes getting rid of BRESCO even more important…if you have something that’s making people have asthma, you’re making them more at risk.”