Friday, May 02, 2008

Turner's Station: The Most Polluted Community on Earth?

Phyllis Seward and Maxine Thompson


AAEA and activists from Turner's Station, a black community just outside of Baltimore City, have agreed to work together to protect residents from pollution. The community exists in the middle of a perfect storm of pollution sources. The Maryland Department of the Environment, which was located less than a mile away from this community, even moved out of the area several years ago. Turner's Station is surrounded by a steel production plant, landfill, electric utility plant and the high power lines run through the community, soil and groundwater chromium contamination, Interstate Highway 695 yards away and nearby Patapsco River dredge spoil. Turner's Station has to be the most polluted neighborhood in the United States.

Maxine Thompson and Phyllis Seward, pictured above, are two of the principal local activists working to protect Turner's Station. As long time residents of the community, they are knowledgeable about all of the pollution sources threatening their community. With little to no resources, they plead their case to whomever will listen. To date, there has been little to no protection offered or solutions applied. AAEA has agreed to work with Mrs. Thompson and Ms. Seward to protect this community, particularly the most vulnerable: asthmatic children and elderly residents.

AAEA believes that Turner's Station is in an industrial zone and humans should not live there. Our hope is that the multibillion dollar international companies will step up to assist with mitigating the environmental conditions faced by residents of Turner's Station. We know that such generosity would create goodwill among federal agencies considering environmental injustice issues and state agencies charged with approving air and water permits. Turner's Station is in serious need of help. AAEA is promoting two principle solutions to the problems at Turner's Station:

1) Buyout for every resident household

2) Minority partnership and equity in any proposed facilities.

Severstal, Russia's largest steelmaker, run by billionaire Alexei Mordashov, purchased and is currently operating the Sparrows Point steel mill southeast of Baltimore for $810 million, fulfilling an antitrust mandate that Arcelor Mittal divest itself of the Mittal Steel plant. The purchase places Severstal among the five largest U.S. steel producers. Mittal Steel, owned by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, merged with Luxembourg-based Arcelor in 2006 to form Arcelor Mittal, the world's biggest steel company. It agreed to relinquish the Baltimore plant to resolve Justice Department antitrust concerns.

Bethlehem Steel owned Sparrows Point from the early 1900s until the company declared bankruptcy in 2000. In 2003 the plant was purchased by International Steel Group (ISG), which merged with LTV Steel to create the largest U.S. steel producer. Mittal bought ISG for about $4.5 billion in 2004, merging it with his Ispat International and LNM Holdings. Then in 2006, Mittal merged with Arcelor, prompting the divestment.

AES has a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on the front end of the Severstal site at Sparrows Point. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will be holding a hearing on the LNG project on June 9, 2008 at Patapsco High School Auditorium, 8100 Wise Avenue, Baltimore, MD 410-887-7060 at 7 p.m. The FERC has issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and a hard copy is available for review at the North Point Library, 1716 Merritt Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21222. The DEIS is woefully inadequate in addressing the environmental justice issue facing Turner's Station. There are also many questions about the way AES has dealt with the Turner's Station community.

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