Friday, March 23, 2012

Chesapeake Bay Sciences From the Duh! Files

A new report says industrial facilities dumped 1.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Maryland waterways in 2010, mostly in the Baltimore area. The report was released Thursday by Environment Maryland, which said it obtained the figures from Environmental Protection Agency reports. The report says 98 percent of the releases were in the Baltimore area, particularly Curtis Creek on the Baltimore-Anne Arundel County border.

The chemicals include arsenic, mercury and benzene, which the environmental group says have been linked to cancer and developmental and reproductive disorders. The report calls on industrial facilities to switch to safer alternatives and for tougher permitting and enforcement by federal and state environmental regulators.
Well, yes, the fact that Baltimore is the largest source of contaminants in at least the upper Chesapeake Bay has been well known, well, nearly forever.  Even since the mid 80s at least, Baltimore Harbor has been identified as one of three hot spots in the Bay (the other two are the Anacostia River in Washington D.C, and Elizabeth River, near Norfolk, Virginia.  Baltimore earned its way onto the list starting in colonial times, when it's metal mining, and refining made it a manufacturing center for the region.  Huge concentrations of contaminants stored in the sediments guarantee it won't get off that list anytime soon.

So what brings Baltimore's toxics problems to the forefront today? I think this might be related:

Judge approves Sparrows Point monitoring agreement
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says it hasn’t decided whether to appeal a federal judge’s approval of an agreement between the owners of the Sparrows Point steel plant and environmental regulators over monitoring of the site for toxic contaminants.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz approved the agreement last week between RG Steel and federal and state regulators. The agreement ends a lengthy dispute over monitoring at the mill outside Baltimore. Under the agreement, the company is required to sample sediments no more than 50 feet offshore.

Environmentalists have argued contaminants have been found much further offshore.

The judge ruled last year a prior owner wasn’t responsible for pollution before Bethlehem Steel’s 2003 bankruptcy sale of the mill, but current owners could be required to study offshore pollution.
Yep, pretty much everywhere you look in Baltimore Harbor, you'll find toxics.  Amounts will vary depending on the distance to sources, the type of sediment.  Ascribing common toxics to a particular source will get more difficult further from the source, as the toxics from a point source become more diluted in the elevated background.

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