6:30 AM EDT, July 17, 2012
A Delaware bankruptcy judge has allowed environmental groups to appeal RG Steel's plan to limit its investigation of potential toxic contamination in the waters surrounding Sparrows Point.
While bankruptcy filings normally put all litigation on hold, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey granted a motion to pursue the appeal filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Blue Water Baltimore and the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper.
The groups had challenged a Baltimore federal judge's approval of an agreement between RG Steel and federal and state regulators to sample for toxic contaminants no more than 50 feet offshore of the steel mill at Sparrows Point.
The environmental groups contend contaminants have been found much farther offshore and that the company's investigation, required under a 1997 consent decree with the mill's former owner,Bethlehem Steel Corp., should be broadened.
Tina Meyers, the Harbor Waterkeeper, said the environmental groups were pleasantly surprised by the ruling, as litigation is normally halted during bankruptcy proceedings. But she said it may help shorten the prolonged cleanup of the peninsula and surrounding waters.
"There are community members living out there for decades who haven’t been able to use the water because of pollution," Meyers said. "It’s never going to get cleaned up until they do the investigation."
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