Environmental officials said yesterday that a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. plant was responsible for the mix of oily soot that fell on Dundalk houses, cars and yards Oct. 19.
Weather data, eyewitness reports and the location of the soot led Maryland Department of the Environment investigators to conclude the plant was responsible for blanketing a two-square-mile area from Lynch Cove Park in Dundalk across Back River to the Foxridge Manor neighborhood of Essex.
About 30 residents had complained about the deposits, some blaming Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s plant for the mess.
But BG&E officials have acknowledged that circumstantial evidence indicates that the company's oil-burning Riverside Power Plant in Dundalk was the culprit, although they also said tests on samples of the oil were inconclusive.
"Vanadium, a substance always present in the effluent of the oil, was not present in the samples," said Arthur J. Slusark, a company spokesman.
The utility has agreed to address all claims neighborhood residents make against the company for damages to their properties.
For information, BG&E asks residents to call its customer service unit at 685-0123.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has referred the case to the attorney general's office for legal action against the utility.
The Riverside plant, a portion of which was built in 1941, has had long-standing problems in meeting air pollution standards for emissions of dirt and soot, or "particulate matter."
In a separate, unrelated action yesterday, the utility said it would pay a $75,000 fine and agreed to shut down the plant in 1993 if its air pollution problems cannot be improved.
The utility will try a different fuel oil to reduce emissions.
The new approach is part of a legally binding agreement with the state agency.
BG&E already had planned to close the 336-megawatt Riverside plant by 1993 and switch to a more efficient, less costly source of power, Mr. Slusark said.
The Perryman Power Plant in Harford County, which the utility hopes to open in 1994, would take over the demand from the Riverside plant.