Call for Declaration of Air Pollution Emergency in Curtis Bay

May 19th, 2023

Call for Declaration of Air Pollution Emergency in Curtis Bay

[Curtis Bay, Maryland] – Once again, the Community of Curtis Bay is the victim of the ongoing threat of environmental injustices. The Community of Curtis Bay Association, representing the residents of Curtis Bay and neighboring communities, is calling on the Secretary of Maryland Department of Environment, Serena Mcllwain, and Governor Wes Moore to declare an “Air Pollution Emergency” in light of the recurring incidents of explosions, leaks, and spills that continue to plague our area. Today’s event, a spill of 50-75 gallons of nitric acid at Grace Chemical, is just the latest in a never-ending series of incidents that jeopardize the health and safety of our community.

We cannot overlook the recent deadly fire at Petroleum Management, claiming the life of a worker, as well as the massive explosion at the CSX coal terminal that spread toxic coal dust throughout our neighborhood. These incidents, coupled with the daily exposure to coal dust, pollution from the WIN WASTE incinerator (also known as BRESCO) – the city’s single worst stationary source of air pollution – and over 70 other sources of industrial pollution, have placed an unbearable burden on the residents of Curtis Bay and South Baltimore.

In light of the commitment expressed by local, state, and federal officials to environmental justice, we implore Governor Wes Moore and Secretary Serena Mcllwain to take immediate action. Today’s nitric acid spill is not an isolated incident; it adds to a cumulative burden of environmental injustice that our community faces on a daily basis. 

The residents of Curtis Bay and neighboring communities have been resilient, but their health and well-being cannot continue to be compromised. We demand that our voices be heard, and our concerns be taken seriously. It is time for action, transparency, and accountability from those in power to protect the rights and health of our community.

We urge Governor Wes Moore and Secretary Serena Mcllwain to demonstrate their commitment to environmental justice by declaring an “Air Pollution Emergency” in Curtis Bay and allocating the necessary resources to address the chronic air pollution crisis faced by our residents.


Grace Chemical operates a chemical plant in the Curtis Bay neighborhood in Baltimore City, an industrialized environmental justice community. The area within a 1-mile radius of the Plant ranks extremely high when compared with the rest of Maryland, EPA Region 3, and the rest of the country for almost all indicators addressed by EPA’s EJ Screen tool, including EJ index, environmental, and socio-economic variables. In particular, the area is in the 99th percentile for the state and EPA Region 3 when it comes to proximity to facilities with a risk management plan (“RMP”) and the 99th percentile for this indicator nationally.

Section 2-105 of the Maryland Environment Code empowers the Secretary of MDE to advise the Governor when an air pollution emergency exists or is reasonably certain to occur. In turn, the Governor may issue an executive order proclaiming an air pollution emergency and requiring the immediate elimination of specifically identifiable sources of air pollution.

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