Brandywine, Maryland is an unincorporated town in Prince George’s County and home to over 6,000 residents, 72% of whom are African American. The Brandywine community organizes through the Brandywine | TB Southern Region Neighborhood Coalition (the BTB Coalition). Their mission is to create and maintain an environment where “business and community will prosper by supporting all projects and activities which will contribute to the positive growth and development of Prince George’s County, Brandywine and its community.” Despite their efforts, Brandywine continues to face significant challenges relative to air quality and environmental health.
Brandywine faces unhealthy levels of air pollution. Three large fossil fuel-fired power plants (over 250 megawatts) are located in or immediately outside of Brandywine. The 990-megawatt Panda Mattawoman power plant, soon to be Maryland’s fifth largest fossil fuel-fired power plant, was recently permitted to operate within 13 miles of the community. It is scheduled to go online in 2019. According to Mattwoman’s calculations, pollution from the new power plant will combine with existing pollution to cause excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are linked to heart disease, asthma, and stroke. Prince George’s County, which includes Brandywine, is already in violation of national air quality standards for ozone. Meanwhile, Brandywine residents also face pollution from a coal-ash disposal landfill, a contaminated superfund site (Brandywine DRMO), toxic waste treatment facilities, multiple sand and gravel mines, and highly congested diesel truck traffic.
Air quality is an issue of great importance for human rights, public health, and social fairness because of its profound consequences, harms and hazards, including connections to asthma. Nevertheless, the new power plant is authorized to emit pollutants that can worsen Prince George’s County’s ozone problem and emit five times more ammonia than current levels.
The BTB Coalition is extremely concerned about human health impacts from this activity. Residents who live in the immediate proximity of the above-listed pollution sources are more likely to be less educated and low income. Moreover, these individuals are predominantly senior citizens, many of whom live in multi-generational households with young children. Lacking air conditioning, many are consistently exposed to airborne pollutants. They are known to have higher incidences of cancer and asthma.
The BTB Coalition has worked with universities and environmental groups on these issues in the past, but these groups failed to engage with the community as partners, instead undertaking research and leaving without working with the community to make progress together towards local priorities. This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with the BTB Coalition to meet locally-identified needs.
The vision of the BTB Coalition is to achieve sustainable and vibrant communities that encompass all the amenities of a healthy and thriving within the community that translates into empowered residents that actively participate in initiatives to improve the quality of life of their communities. The BTB Coalition sees it as time for an honest conversation about the future health of Brandywine residents. Partnership with a scientist will help achieve these goals.
Kamita Gray, President of the BTB Coalition, and The University of Maryland’s Dr. Akua Asa-Awuku, will work together through TEX to review existing data and health impact assessment reports, as well as publicly available information, and collect additional data as needed to assess the magnitude and nature of local air quality to determine the nature and risk of associated health impacts.
They will review the findings and communicate them with local residents via a community forum. This work will enable Brandywine’s residents to better understand and respond to local environmental impacts.
The BTB Coalition’s community participatory group works to sustain and develop new local and regional partnerships that will significantly influence the health and organizational growth of the community. These collaborative relationships with public and private agencies and organizations is a long-term implementation strategy for Brandywine. A multi-stakeholder partnership is a healthy approach that facilitates mutual understanding of issues and opportunities, brokers consensus on solutions, and leverages resources from multiple stakeholders (skills, funds, equipment, etc.). The BTB Coalition partnership approach provides a mechanism to ensure that community investment is demand-driven and that its value is maximized.
The Brandywine, MD-TEX project team had their first meeting on February 28, 2017 in the classroom of a JoAnn Fabrics store in Brandywine, Maryland. Kamita Gray, President of the Brandywine BTB Coalition, Akua Asa-Awuku, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, and Melissa Goodwin, Project Liaision for the Thriving Earth Exchange used the 1-hour meeting to get to know one another better, discuss the goals and methodology (broadly) of the project, and lay out plans to kickstart the project.
High levels of concentrated industrial activity in the vicinity of Brandywine are extremely troubling to Kamita’s neighborhood coalition. Therefore, to identify opportunities to mitigate emissions and their effects on the community, Kamita and her team have worked hard to open dialogues with industry representatives and regulatory bodies. However, unable to quantify those emissions, they’ve found that it is difficult to make much headway in these conversations. The TEX project and partnership with Akua will enable Brandywine to approach these conversations with data in hand to back up their concerns and assertions.
Over the coming weeks, Akua will begin brainstorming a sampling plan to collect the data Kamita needs. She will explore the needs and logistics of three pieces of Brandywine’s air quality puzzle in order of priority: particulate matter, gas-phase pollutants (EPA Criteria pollutants), and emissions from contaminated soil. To support these efforts, Kamita has shared background documents including a previous health impact assessment and details about the local power plants. Kamita has also introduced Akua to other faculty at the University of Maryland that have engaged with the community.
The project team will come together again the week of March 20 to regroup after this early review and begin making plans for the launch of this research effort.
Photo coming soon!
Kamita Gray is the president of the BTB Coalition and a resident of Brandywine, Maryland.
Akua Asa-Awuku is an Associate Professor in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Maryland – College Park. Akua received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. Her research interests are in investigating the formation, composition and measurement of human- and naturally-emitted aerosols and their impacts on climate and human health.
(c) 2017 Thriving Earth Exchange