It’s one thing to read how 16-year-old Curtis Bay resident Destiny Watford began a formidable battle: to defeat a trash-to-energy plant in her community that was supported by Baltimore’s mayor, Maryland’s governor and an assortment of other powerful adults.
But listening to the passion in Watford’s voice as she speaks about it with WYPR’s Tom Hall helps explain how she and fellow opponents pulled off their eventual David-and-Goliath victory.
Watford explains how she and fellow Benjamin Franklin High School students learned, from a Baltimore Brew article, that the state had approved a plant less than a mile from their school that would release 240 pounds of mercury and 1,000 pounds of lead each year.
“The incinerator really was a violation of our basic human right to live in a healthy community and our right to breathe clean air,” Watford told Hall in a Maryland Morning segment broadcast earlier this week.
Free Your Voice
“We learned that just because we live in Curtis Bay we are more likely to die of lung cancer or to suffer from asthma and that wasn’t okay. And that wasn’t fair. And we knew that we had to do something about it,” said Watford, now 20 and a Towson University student.
Recently, Watford was recognized by the San Fransisco-based Goldman Foundation for her work, an international award that comes with a $175,000 stipend.
On the radio, she and The Brew’s Fern Shen, who has written about the issue since 2010, look back at what Albany-based Energy Answers was proposing at an old chemical plant in industrial South Baltimore. And they discuss how Watford’s student-led group, Free Your Voice, managed to stop it.
Watford also gives listeners a look ahead to alternative forms of development that she hopes, using the prize money, to foster in her neighborhood.