Deal OK'd on pollution cleanup

Company to study how to stop leaks of carcinogens at S. Baltimore site

May 24, 2007|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,Sun Reporter

Baltimore officials yesterday approved a consent agreement with a New Jersey-based manufacturing company that will require the firm to study the pollution at its former pesticide plant in South Baltimore and propose a way to stop the leaking of dangerous chemicals.

The agreement between the city and Honeywell International was required by the Maryland Department of the Environment to address problems at the site of the former plant at 2000 Race St. Arsenic dust made its way into adjacent Swann Park, requiring the city to close the recreation area.

Arsenic was used in the production of pesticides, including lead arsenate, and the company dumped a number of other chemicals there, including chromium waste. Both arsenic and chromium are known carcinogens.

The plant was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the construction of Interstate 95, and the site was covered in a layer of asphalt and clay.

By 1983, the state found that the cap was leaking and issued a violation notice to the city. But it wasn't until last month that the city shut Swann Park after tests showed levels of arsenic in the soil at more than 100 times safe levels.

The consent agreement, approved by the city's Board of Estimates yesterday, gives Honeywell four months to study the area, then another four months to come up with a solution to stop the leaking. Then the company will have three years to come up with a longer-term fix.

Mayor Sheila Dixon praised the agreement yesterday, saying the company should move forward on an "accelerated schedule" to clean up the site. "I support the consent order because it will immediately initiate full testing and analysis of the conditions at the Race Street site to determine if there is any imminent public health danger," Dixon said.

Her spokesman, Anthony McCarthy, said the city wants to reopen Swann Park by the end of the year.

City, state and federal officials have known about contamination in the park and at the adjacent pesticide factory site for decades, records show. After the cap over the site began leaking, the state began a series of discussions with the city and the company, formerly Allied Chemical, that have continued for years.

A community group criticized the agreement yesterday for allowing Honeywell too much time to clean up chromium waste.

"There is no need for further study of the chromium portion of the site," said Rob English, lead organizer with Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development. "There is a need for a cleanup. Dig it up. ... Why is Honeywell holding this site hostage with delays?"

Honeywell said it has "expedited" its investigation of pollution in Swann Park.tom.pelton@baltsun.com

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