Friday, February 9, 2024

Forget It Jake, It's Baltimore

Bear Creek, to the left
Balmer Sun, EPA proposes cleanup plan for Baltimore County’s Bear Creek, west of former Bethlehem Steel site

EPA officials want to spend about $45 million to clean up a section of Baltimore County’s Bear Creek that was contaminated by Bethlehem Steel. A 61-acre portion of the creek, located to the west of the Sparrows Point peninsula, officially became a “Superfund” site in 2022, joining a list of other badly polluted hazardous waste sites eligible for federal cleanup aid. The creek’s sediment is laden with cancer-causing PCBs, arsenic, heavy metals and grease. The Superfund area sits at the foot of the Tin Mill Canal, where wastewater from steelmaking was dumped.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which runs the Superfund program, has proposed dredging about half of the acreage and capping the bottom over the entire site with 2 feet of sand. With Bethlehem Steel long gone, EPA officials said, the project likely would be paid for with public funds.

During an open meeting Tuesday evening about the proposed cleanup in Turner Station, a historic Black community across Bear Creek from Sparrows Point, some residents expressed concern that the plan could have unforeseen adverse impacts on the community, which already is beset by environmental woes, from heavy truck traffic to flooding that besieges the low-lying neighborhood

EPA officials, for their part, assured residents that a great deal of effort would go into corralling contaminants unearthed during the cleanup, and ensuring the project wouldn’t worsen the flooding.
. . .
EPA’s dredging plan for Bear Creek, by contrast, is further along. The agency is accepting comments online on the plan through March 10. The hope is to start dredging in 2025 and installing the cap the following year.

That’s a relatively quick turnaround for a Superfund site, and the project is laudable, said Gussie Maguire, Maryland staff scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. But the project’s pace cannot come at the cost of surrounding communities, she said.

The Bay Foundation is still reviewing the EPA’s dredging plan, Maguire said, but wants to make sure that the dredging area is large enough to be successful, and that the cap will stay in place, rather than sinking into the mud.

EPA did consider costlier cleanup alternatives, including dredging and capping the entire acreage, which would cost close to $70 million.

“The downside to dredging the entire site is it approximately doubles the amount of contaminated sediment that would have to be managed up on Sparrows Point, transported off site and disposed of into the landfill,” Cron said. “It’s significantly more expensive.”

Instead, EPA considers it most cost effective to focus on where they believe the sediment contamination is worst — closest to shore, Cron said. To remove the contaminated sediment, crews will use a dredge that pumps material through an enclosed pipeline, said Kate Lasseter, another EPA project manager. Even so, the process will churn up the creek bottom, causing some particles to become suspended in the water, Lasseter said.

So, crews will install floating booms, with curtains hanging under them, in an effort to contain any material that escapes during the dredging, she said. The dredged material will be dried on shore in Sparrows Point in enclosed tubes, Lasseter said. The resulting water will be treated and tested, before being discharged back into the creek. And the dredged material will be shipped to an undetermined landfill off the peninsula, Cron said.
I visited Bear Creek to sample once, a long time ago. A surprisingly pretty place considering its location. Too bad it's so contaminated. It doesn't sound like too bad a plan.

No comments:

Post a Comment