Medical Waste Incinerator Explosion in South Baltimore

Image source: Emily Hofstaedter / WYPR

Residents of Curtis Bay, an industrial neighborhood in South Baltimore, were shaken by yet another explosion last week, which reportedly shook windows and doors. Only two years ago, an explosion at the coal terminal in the neighborhood blew out windows and traumatized residents. This time, the loud sounds were coming from the country’s second largest medical waste incinerator, Curtis Bay Energy, which was recently fined $1.75 million for knowingly improperly disposing of special medical waste and biohazard materials.

Curtis Bay Energy pleaded guilty to 40 counts of violating Maryland environmental regulations. The company’s egregious and dangerous acts included dumping improperly treated biohazard waste and using an unpermitted sump pump to discharge wastewater “in an attempt to process waste more quickly,” according to the chief of the state criminal investigations unit. Though they faced one of the largest fines for an environmental crime in the state, explosions are still a regular occurrence at the facility, alarming nearby residents.

Fines may curb certain behaviors, but as long as the economic system favors profits before health, residents in Curtis Bay and elsewhere will continue breathing in burning biohazard waste and combusted coal dust. Air and water quality will continue to be compromised as long as the energy companies can cut corners to gain extra profit.