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Digging Into Harbor Point Construction

As the focus of the Harbor Point project moves to the construction phase, some residents in nearby Fells Point are concerned about the safety of building on the cap that seals in contaminants from the old Allied Chemical plant.  

Construction of the 27-story headquarters of Exelon, which could start as soon as mid-October, involves crews driving pilings through the cap - built in 1999 - and through the underlying chromium 65 feet into the ground.

Jonathan Flesher, senior development director with Beatty Development, says it can be done safely.  He says the nearby Morgan Stanley building was built on a so-called brownfield site similar to Harbor Point.

“It was constructed using the same methodology that we will be using on this building here,” Flesher said. He also points to Atlantic Station; a mixed use development in Atlanta that was built on the site of a former steel mill.

But Charles Cohen, who lives a couple of blocks from Harbor Point, says the Morgan Stanley building is a red herring. He says officials told him when that building was under construction that it was not on the cap.  Cohen is among a group of residents that is calling for a delay in the groundbreaking until a study independent of the EPA and Maryland Department of the Environment is conducted.  “[The EPA and MDE] believe these sites can be developed,” he said.

The EPA along with MDE entered into a consent decree in 1989 outlining the process for cleaning up and redeveloping the site, which was a chromium processing plant for over a century until it closed in 1985.

EPA Supervisor Bob Greaves says the remedy was decided upon in the early 90s and that it’s too risky to dig up the contaminants.

Officials with Beatty Development say they will continue to reach out to the community to inform them of the process.  A public information meeting with representatives from Beatty, the EPA and MDE will take place Wednesday 5 p.m. at 1300 Thames Street – the Morgan Stanley Building.