The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion We must stop burning trash

Containers from the Montgomery Country Waste Transfer Station are put on trucks to be taken to the Covanta Energy incinerator. (Robb Hill for The Washington Post)
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The May 19 Politics & the Nation article “Report: Pollution responsible for 1 in 6 deaths worldwide over past five years” reported that 9 million people die because of pollution each year. It told us that most of this takes place in poorer countries. However, you needn’t go farther than Baltimore to find this kind of pollution coming from the Wheelabrator incinerator, which burns trash for energy.

Most of us wouldn’t consider burning our trash in our neighbor’s backyard. My neighbors have two friendly, inquisitive little girls who love to pet our old dog. I can’t imagine my trash releasing cancer-causing formaldehyde into their little lungs as they ride their bikes. The thought of mercury or sulfur dioxide giving them lifelong health problems is unthinkable. I won’t imagine the damage to their lungs, livers, hearts and immune systems.

But trash from many of us is being burned in our Baltimore neighbor’s backyard. The incinerator burns trash from Baltimore City as well as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, St. Mary’s and Prince George’s counties. Unsurprisingly, Baltimore is suffering. According to the Baltimore City Health Department’s “Healthy Baltimore 2020,” the city’s mortality rate is “nearly 30 percent higher than the rest of the state” and it “ranks last on key health outcomes.”

I believe we must stop this incinerator from poisoning our neighbors. We can start by asking our county leaders to stop sending our trash to be burned in our neighbor’s backyard, and our Maryland legislators to stop allowing ratepayer dollars to subsidize the incinerator.

Birgit Sharp, Owings