Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Does a Bear Poop in the Bay?

Sparrows Point and Bear Creek
Baltimore Fish Bowl, EPA to investigate contaminants in Bear Creek near Sparrows Point, adds site to national list of cleanup priorities
The Environmental Protection Agency last week added part of Bear Creek near Sparrows Point to a national list of sites prioritized for cleanup after the EPA found contaminants in the sediment there were at least three times greater than samples collected upriver and upstream.

The site of concern contains about 60 acres of contaminated sediments in the waters of Bear Creek, near where the creek meets the Patapsco River and along the northwestern shore of the Sparrows Point peninsula.

Sparrows Point is the former site of Bethlehem Steel, at one time the world’s largest steel producer and the Baltimore area’s largest employer.

During its operation at Sparrows Point, Bethlehem Steel also contributed to the contamination of nearby waterways, said Joe Vitello, EPA site assessment manager for the Bear Creek site.

“Bethlehem Steel discharged contaminants in stormwater, process water, and wastewater for manufacturing areas directly to the surface water, and placed slag directly into the water to create landmass, which allowed contaminants to settle into the sediment of the creek,” Vitello said in an EPA presentation in October 2021.

The EPA found hazardous substances in the sediments of Bear Creek, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a class of chemicals that are caused by burning materials such as coal, oil, and gasoline; heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, cyanide, lead, mercury, selenium, silver and zinc; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals often used in electrical, heat transfer and hydraulic equipment among other uses; and oil and grease.

Vitello said the current property owner of the historic steel mill site, Tradepoint Atlantic, is already conducting an ongoing cleanup of the former industrial areas on land at Sparrows Point under the regulatory oversight of the EPA.

But the EPA is also working to address contamination in the water off of the peninsula.
. . .
The EPA also assessed the toxicity of the sediment and its effect on organisms. Test results showed that all macro-invertebrate organisms, like crabs and mussels, that were exposed to the sediment died, with the exception of two sediment locations where there was 90% mortality.

I sampled in Bear Creek for heavy metals, along with a colleague who studied organic contaminants. Yes, it's horrible contaminated.  

I don't know how they'll clean it up. Dredge it? Where do they put the sediment. Maybe they could dig a big lined pit on the old Sparrows Point site, and bury it there?

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