Exploring the Dirtiest City in Maryland

Maryland, known as ‘America in Miniature,’ is a state rich in natural beauty. From the jagged Appalachian Mountains to the pure sandy white beaches and rolling hills of the Piedmont plateau, this small state is frequently described as encompassing all of the best aspects of the country.

More recently, however, the unpleasant reality of pollution and inadequate sanitation in the state has been apparent. Baltimore, Maryland, was designated one of the dirtiest communities in the country after receiving numerous sanitary complaints.

Researchers discovered that in 2023, the city had more sanitary complaints than any other city in the country, with almost 47,000 per 100,000 population.

So, what is the root reason for Baltimore’s sanitary issues, and why has it acquired the title of Maryland’s dirtiest city? Let us find out.

Why is Baltimore so filthy?

The city of Baltimore has had a significant garbage problem. Baltimore creates approximately 430,000 tons of waste every year. As you stroll through the city, you may notice areas covered with waste due to unlawful dumping and littering. The city has a large number of unoccupied properties, which frequently serve as places for illicit rubbish disposal.

Poverty and socioeconomic imbalances frequently impede households’ and communities’ abilities to properly handle sanitation issues. As a result, much of the city’s rubbish is simply incinerated, which adds greatly to local air pollution.

Notably, the ‘Wheelabrator,’ the tenth largest trash incinerator in the United States, is Baltimore’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, the Wheelabrator released an astounding 762,683 tons of CO2 equivalents.

In addition to incineration, industrial and transportation-related air pollution exacerbates the city’s air quality issues. As a booming industrial port, Baltimore is home to a plethora of heavy enterprises involved in shipping, manufacturing, and transportation, many of which produce pollutants.

But the city’s pollution issues do not end there! Water contamination is another concern that the city faces. Aging sewers, illegal dumping, littering in streams, and stormwater runoff all contribute to water pollution in Baltimore.

How Poor Sanitation and Pollution Impact the City?

Poor sanitation and pollution in Baltimore have had far-reaching consequences, hurting both the environment and citizens’ health.

Emissions from the trash incinerator, as well as the presence of heavy industries, shipping activities, manufacturing, and transportation, have all contributed to the production of significant amounts of greenhouse gases, worsening the city’s air quality.

As a result, in 2019, the American Lung Association’s ‘State of the Air’ report listed the Baltimore Metro region as one of the 50 worst in the US for ozone smog. Residents face substantial health hazards from exposure to high levels of ozone pollution. Asthma attacks, lung cancer, developmental and reproductive injury, and cardiovascular impairment are all possible health outcomes.

Pollutants such as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminate Baltimore’s water systems. These compounds are linked to a variety of health issues, including cancer, decreased vaccination response, and thyroid disturbance. PFAS are also persistent in the environment and can build up in the human body over time, creating long-term health concerns.

Initiatives to Enhance Baltimore’s Image as the Dirtiest City

Recognizing the need for a cleaner and healthier urban environment, the city of Baltimore has launched a number of programs to address sanitation and pollution concerns. Some significant actions and strategies that will hopefully enhance Baltimore’s ranking as the ‘dirtiest city in Maryland’ are:

  • Waste Management Programs attempt to improve the city’s trash collection and disposal processes, as well as the recycling of hazardous and solid waste.
  • The Baltimore Clean Air Act attempts to reduce air pollution in the city by enforcing stronger industrial emissions regulations and improving air quality monitoring.
  • The Baltimore Green Network Initiative, a city-wide project, aims to transform derelict and unused sites into a network of green infrastructure, supporting environmental sustainability, community participation, and economic revitalization throughout the city;
  • The Baltimore Water Treatment Plant Upgrade intends to integrate modern technologies and infrastructure improvements to solve water contamination concerns, eliminate leaks, and fulfill current criteria for safe and reliable water supply.

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