Baltimore settles suit over water pollution, admits no wrongdoing

Agencies to get $500,000

city to fix treatment plants

August 12, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore will pay $500,000 to federal and state environmental agencies to settle a lawsuit claiming the city polluted the Gwynn Falls and Patapsco River with tainted water from two city treatment plants.

In addition, the city agreed to make $2.5 million in improvements to the Patapsco Waste Filtration Plant and the Ashburton Water Filtration Plant under the court settlement approved yesterday by the city's Board of Estimates.

In May 1997, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment notified the city that they would seek penalties for alleged excessive discharges of chlorine and other waste from the Ashburton Plant into Gwynn Falls since 1992.

The suit against the city also claimed the Patapsco sewage plant sporadically violated rules under its permits since 1993 by releasing chlorine, phosphorus and fecal coliform.

The city contended that while the plants might have released more effluents than allowed by law, no harm occurred to the public or environment.

Federal and state law authorizes penalties of up to $27,500 a day for exceeding permitted limits. After extensive negotiation, the parties agreed that the city would pay the penalties but admit no wrongdoing.

The city already had planned the plant improvements. The settlement money will go to the Maryland Clean Water Fund and to the EPA to reimburse it for its enforcement efforts.

In another city court settlement, the Baltimore Development Corp. will pay $150,000 to secure the right to develop a Foreign Trade Zone.

In 1982, Baltimore received the designation to establish a trade zone where merchandise is considered by the U.S. government as outside U.S. Customs territory and is classified as international commerce.

Foreign and domestic goods may be brought into the zone without payment of customs duties or government excise taxes.

The city entered an agreement with McCormick Properties in 1982 to operate the trade zone at Holabird Industrial Park. Since then, the zone was relocated to Point Breeze Industrial Parkway, previously owned by 2500 Broening Highway Limited Partnership. The park is owned by Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. (CIGNA).

The payment resolves a civil lawsuit between Baltimore Development Corp. and the 2500 Partnership, CIGNA and the Baltimore Freeport Centre, successor to McCormick Properties Inc.

The city sees the agreement as allowing it to begin planning for expansion, development and management of the zone that will encourage growth of industry there.

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