"Naturally there are concerns when you hear the word chromium," said Mr. Angelos, who said the agency would not recommend that the state buy the property until the testing was complete.
But the presence of chromium alone, Mr. Angelos said, would not necessarily cause the state to scrap the Allied site. "If we discover some chromium, it would not automatically disqualify the site," he said.
In fact, an Allied official involved in the negotiations for the passenger terminal site, said possible contamination from the dredging for passenger ship berthing had not been a part of the company's talks with the state.
"That's never been an issue in any of the discussions," said Bill Blank, senior project manager for Allied. "We're not aware of any concerns."
Some environmental advocates suggest dredging for the terminal could disperse toxic material.
"The harbor bottom is heavily contaminated in many spots, so that's always been a concern about dredging," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, director of the Maryland chapter of Clean Water Action.
And one state official familiar with the Allied negotiations said:
"There's certainly going to be far more environmental concerns at the Allied site. . . .more concerns and more potential costs."
Port officials already are familiar with the costly ramifications of a different type of chromium contamination. Dundalk Marine Terminal, the largest state-owned cargo handling facility, is partly built on some 3 million tons of chrome ore tailings that the state bought from Allied and dumped there from the 1950s through 1970s.
The waste, used as fill dirt to construct the terminal, came from the AlliedSignal chrome works plant.
For years, the chromium has contaminated the soil at Dundalk and caused the pavement to buckle. Lime-green contaminated water has leaked from the terminal's storm drains into the Patapsco River.
Estimates about long-term cleanup costs have ranged from $10 million to $100 million, according to people familiar with the issue.
State officials -- now convinced of Allied's liability -- have been negotiating with the company about assuming a share of the cleanup costs.
While negotiations about the Dundalk cleanup and the cruise ship site are occurring simultaneously, state and Allied officials insist they are unrelated. And they said the state was not willing to bargain on Allied's cleanup costs at Dundalk as part of the deal to obtain the cruise ship terminal site.
Although there is no estimate on the cost of the dredging -- or whether it would be included in the sale price -- the passenger terminal site is far smaller than the contaminated area at Dundalk, which is roughly 100 acres. Because of Hart Miller, disposal of contaminated dredge from the harbor should be far less expensive than disposal of contaminated soil from Dundalk.
The environmental ramifications are one of only several concerns associated with constructing a terminal. Initially projected to cost about $20 million, estimates now have soared to $50 million or more, raising questions about how the state would pay for the terminal if private investors did not pick up much of the cost.
Gov.-elect Parris Glendening has said he strongly favors the terminal. About $12 million is now earmarked in the state's transportation budget for the project. But a new legislature convenes in January, and the terminal would compete with a host of the state's other transportation projects.
Proponents say the passenger terminal would boost business and tax revenues, though projections vary about just how much. According to a study by Martin O'Connell Associates of Bethesda, the cruise operations could create a maximum of 244 jobs -- such as those dealing with tugs, taxis, food and advertising -- and generate a maximum of $21.2 million in business revenues, largely for the city. In addition, it would generate $807,000 a year in state and local tax revenues, under the most optimistic predictions.
Allied -- which envisions a mixed-use complex with dramatic views of the water and downtown Baltimore -- would also benefit from the proposed passenger terminal. With such an attraction there, Allied's overall development prospects would be enhanced.
"If we didn't look at it as a positive thing, we wouldn't be pursing it," said Mr. Blank of Allied. "We're making every attempt to resolve this in order to let the port make some announcement before the end of the year."