Airing the Details Of Harbor Point Safeguards

Nov 13, 2013

Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Environmental regulators and the developers of the Harbor Point project will tell the public Thursday evening how they intend to protect people from the toxic chromium buried beneath the site during construction.

The meeting comes nearly two weeks after regulators rejected one development plan over concerns about air monitoring plans.

Baltimore City Councilman Jim Kraft began organizing the meeting before that action, but had to postpone it because Environmental Protection Agency officials weren’t available during the federal government’s shut down last month.

“I thought it was very important that we have a session where there could be a formal presentation and there could be a formal Q&A session,” Kraft said.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Morgan Stanley Building, 1300 Thames Street.

Beatty Development, developers of the billion dollar project on the edge of Fells Point, will have to break through a cap that has been in place since 1999 to contain toxic chromium left over from the old Allied Chemical plant that closed in 1985.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment must sign off on the company’s plans as part of a consent decree that was signed in 1989. Both agencies rejected the plans last month, faulting air monitoring proposals.

Letters from both agencies said the placement of monitoring equipment interfered with results.  The EPA specifically said they could not find manuals anywhere for the equipment to be used for testing, leading them to believe the equipment is obsolete.

But Horacio Tablada, director of MDE’s Land Management Administration, said the equipment is used on construction sites throughout the country. It measures “the particulates and the chromium in the construction site for the protection of workers for the immediate area,” he said.

Still, he added, regulators want Beatty to use different equipment and a different method of testing for more accurate results.

“I really thought this was just going to be crossing the T’s and crossing the I’s cause they gave ’em preliminary approval,” said Charles Cohen a critic of the project who lives a few blocks from the site in Fells Point.

Cohen complained that Beatty is not taking the environmental oversight seriously.

“They have their own agenda which is ‘we need to build it; we got to build it fast and let’s go’ and that’s great but this is not just a normal ground, we’re dealing with a toxic dump,” he said.

Jonathan Flesher, senior development director for Beatty, played down the regulators’ concerns.

“It’s sort of just another bump in the road so to speak which we’ve hit a bunch of them on this project,” he said.

Beatty has 30 days until Nov. 30 to respond.  Flesher said he expects the response to be completed by the end of the week.