There was an excellent news article on February 20 2010 in the Baltimore Sun titled “A new smokestack cleans Baltimore’s air” by Timothy B. Wheeler. However, there is one very important error that the reporter makes. The article reads in part
“A new smokestack is not usually cause for celebration among environmentalists. But the 400-foot stack spouting white clouds at Brandon Shores power plant represents a quantum leap in cleaning Baltimore’s air, not another source of pollution.”
I have advocated throughout my career, including my tenure on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, on the need to improve air quality. This is a critical threat to human health, which is one of the five resource areas that we urge action on in our paper
Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.
and in our focus on vulnerability as a policy framework (e.g. see also).
The single error, in the otherwise excellent article, is in the following paragraph [where I have bold-faced the error];
“Constellation Energy has just completed work on $875 million worth of pollution “scrubbers” at its 26-year-old coal-fired power plant on the Patapsco River. One of the plant’s two steam-generating units resumed operation with the new air-quality controls in December, and the second is cranking up now. The white clouds rising from the stack are almost entirely water vapor. A pair of 700-foot stacks nearby, which until recently belched toxic, acidic smoke from the power plant, are quiet.”
There is an other gas in this relatively clean effluent and it is carbon dioxide! I am unclear why this is not recognized in the article, but it is an important oversight.
The excerpts from the article given below present what are the positive benefits of the new scrubbers.
“But that’s likely to change with the installation of the twin scrubbers at Brandon Shores and pollution controls put in at Constellation’s other coal-burning plants in the area. The Baltimore-based power company has invested more than $1.5 billion to comply with Maryland’s Healthy Air Act, which when it was passed in 2006 was billed by state officials as the toughest power-plant pollution law on the East Coast.”
“Under the law, the state’s power plants were required to reduce harmful emissions by 70 percent to 80 percent by this year, and by 75 percent to 90 percent by 2013. Targeted are releases of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury – byproducts of burning coal that contribute to environmental and health problems in the state.”
“Nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level ozone pollution or smog that can make hot summer air difficult or painful to breathe. They harm water quality in the Chesapeake Bay as they drop from the air. Sulfur dioxide is a major source of fine-particle pollution that can cause breathing difficulties or premature death.”
“Mercury is a toxic metal that, in small doses, can damage the brain, nervous system and other organs. It accumulates in fish tissue, prompting state health officials to warn against eating too many fish caught locally.”