On Thursday, December 30, 2021 residents of Curtis Bay, Maryland felt their homes shake as a loud boom echoed throughout their community. When residents looked outside, they saw a plume of black smoke rising from the coal terminal to the east of their neighborhood. CSX Transportation, Inc., has operated the coal terminal for the past 140 years.
Following the blast, investigations of the facility determined that the explosion was caused by the ignition of a localized flammable atmosphere of methane released from the coal and airborne coal dust released from the conveyor, which increased the flammability of the methane. Low ventilation in the conveyor generated a pressure wave through the reclaim tunnel that increased through the tunnel and resulting in a plume of coal dust that blanketed the Curtis Bay neighborhood.
CSX claims that no one has been hurt from the explosion, but there has not yet been a comprehensive assessment into the health implications for the community following the explosion.
On March 18, 2022, Nidel & Nace filed suit against CSX in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of all residents living within the area of impact and the class is being represented by two Curtis Bay residents who were victims of CSX’s conduct.
Coal dust includes several known toxins, including arsenic, silica, mercury, and other heavy metals. Inhalation of coal dust can cause significant health issues, including Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis, silicosis, mixed dust pneumoconiosis, dust-related diffuse fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The blue area above is the proposed Curtis Bay Class Area
The mining, processing, and burning of coal poses a number of risks to the environment and to human health. Coal combustion releases Sulfur dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulates that contribute to smog, haze, respiratory illnesses and lung disease, carbon dioxide (CO2), mercury and other heavy metals, and fly and bottom ashes (residues created when power plants burn coal) that are laced with toxic heavy metals and radioactive particles. Improper storage of bottom ash residues has resulted in disastrous consequences for groundwater and surface waters in the United States. Yet, coal-burning power plants still comprise approximately 21.8% of U.S. electricity.
Nidel & Nace is committed to combatting these environmental challenges because a clean and safe environment is a human right. Industry in Curtis Bay has, for too long, taken advantage of its place in the community, neglecting the health and wellbeing of those residents it shares the air and soil with. This incident is a brazen example of reckless disregard for local residents.