Footage courtesy of The Real News,
Edited by the United Workers Media Team,

On February 25, 2014, students from the United Workers Human Rights committee, "Free Your Voice" attended a hearing on Senate Bill 706 at the Maryland Senate Education Health & Environmental Affairs Committee. The students have been fighting
the construction of the nation's largest incinerator.

The bill would require the Maryland Department of the Environment to conduct a cumulative impact assessment before issuing permits for new pollution sources.

Destiny Watford testified on behalf of the Free Your Voice. Her testimony is below.

My name is Destiny Watford. I am a member of Free Your Voice, a human rights group of United Workers. I live in Curtis Bay, a tight knit community in South Baltimore. It is my home and I love it but Curtis Bay is pollution central. Anyone who has been to Curtis Bay knows that, largely due to the industrial area surrounding it, Curtis Bay is not the healthiest place around. In fact, we discovered that Curtis Bay, although it is a rather small community, is one of the most polluted areas in the state. We also know that people die in Curtis Bay of lung cancer, heart disease and lower respiratory disease at some of the highest levels in the city of Baltimore. All of this is enough to make it feel like the community’s fate is to be dirty and polluted. But when we learned about a plan to build the nations’ largest trash burning incinerator less than a mile away from our school – we were still shocked.

Our first question was “why here? Why here in a community that is already so burdened by pollution and bad health?” -- Why add an incinerator that would burn 4,000 tons of tires, metals and plastics and release 240 lbs of mercury per year into the air?

To be honest, it made us feel like somehow our lives weren’t respected or didn’t matter as much to those making decisions about development. We went out and talked to hundreds of community members and so many of them – particularly those who have lived in Curtis Bay for a long time – said the same thing “What do you expect, Curtis Bay is a dumping ground”…to be clear, we are not saying our neighbors are wrong to express this – in fact we agree and that is why we are here today – We are here to say that no community should be another’s dumping ground.

We know that our lives matter just as much as anyone else’s. We know that we have a right to a safe and clean environment and that our lives should not be limited by asthma or cancer just because of where we were born. We have a right to Fair Development that puts the health of all communities first –for a long time we have tried to do this. One way we tried to do this was through requesting a health impact assessment, to look at how the incinerator would affect the lives of Curtis Bay residents. The Baltimore City Health Department told us that although the project deserved a health study, they wouldn’t conduct one because of the fact that permits were already given to Energy Answers. Communities need to know how pollution is going to impact them.

This is why we are so excited to voice our support for this bill because it gets at part of the structure of the problem that we are trying to address. The spirit of this bill is something we all believe in – and that is Equity and fairness. This bill would make it so that communities like mine, communities that have historically had more than their fair share of pollution – and paid the consequences – are respected and recognized when new development decisions are made.

Then, instead of trash incinerators we hope that Curtis Bay and communities like it will be the destination for development that puts our needs first – in the case of Curtis Bay – we would love to see truly green solar energy, recycling and composting – development that would bring good jobs without adding to our health problems.
In a place like Curtis Bay, where it is not uncommon for developments like this one to show up, it’s easy to lose hope that things will ever change. It almost seems as if things will inevitably remain the same. What we’re talking about today really matters and could be a step towards real change not for just communities like Curtis Bay, but for all communities – because our fate as a city and as a state includes everyone.

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