Baltimore City Council to hold second hearing on CSX coal facility explosion

Published on: August 24, 2022 6:00 AM EDT

Ray Conway and Meleny Thomas in front of the Curtis Bay Recreation Center on August 11, 2022. The recreation center is near the CSX coal facility.

The Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety and Government Operations committee will hold a hearing Wednesday evening about the explosion at a CSX Transportation coal facility late last year.

Nobody was killed or injured in the Dec. 30, 2021 explosion, but residents were scared — and many complained of shattered windows and other damage to their homes.

Federal and state authorities are investigating the explosion. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited CSX for a combination of “serious violations,” and ordered the company to pay more than $120,000 in fines. Earlier this month, an OSHA spokesperson confirmed in an email that CSX is contesting the citations.

The Maryland Department of the Environment also fined CSX for violating Maryland’s ambient air quality control law. The department has offered the company an opportunity to settle the matter before litigation, and a spokesperson for the department said the company and MDE are in “discussions” following the settlement offer.

The company did not send a representative to an earlier council hearing, according to The Baltimore Sun. A CSX spokesperson said the company would be in attendance this time.

Phylicia Porter, the Baltimore City Council member who represents Curtis Bay in the 10th District, said she hopes the hearing will be an opportunity for the council and community members to get “concrete answers” from CSX. They’ve prepared questions from community members and subject matter experts, she said.

“I also want to learn at the municipal, state and federal level, different enforcement capabilities we could be developing or leverage to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Porter said.

The CSX coal facility in Curtis Bay on August 11, 2022.

Meleny Thomas, a Curtis Bay resident and staffer at the South Baltimore Community Land Trust, said people in her neighborhood are “absolutely” scared after the explosion.

“People report experiencing PTSD and trauma from the explosion,” she said. “Every sound, every boom, they’re like, ‘OK, what’s exploding now?’”

For Ray Conaway, co-president of the community association in Curtis Bay, the attention being put on the area is an opportunity. For too long, he says, Curtis Bay has been ignored by those in power.

“There’s a recreation center and a park within a shadow of CSX and the coal plant. Can you imagine the children that go to that park and who are inhaling those fumes and that dust?” he said. “It is, without question, a hazardous and serious public health issue.”

The hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Du Burns Chambers on the fourth floor of City Hall. There is also an option to view the meeting remotely.

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