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Harbor Point does not need more studies [Letter]

Environmental PollutionAuthorsEnvironmental PoliticsHoneywell International IncorporatedMetal

The recent commentary, "Harbor Point environmental questions," (Dec. 2), may lead The Sun's readers to believe that additional studies are necessary before work can begin on the proposed redevelopment there. In fact, these suggested studies have nothing to with the proposed redevelopment, which the authors recognize will be safe. "We are not saying that development of this site will result in meaningful human health and/or ecological risks," the authors state.

It also is important to note that the federal consent decree for the cleanup of the former Baltimore Works site mandates that construction not jeopardize the integrity of the remedy and that detailed plans be approved by federal and state agencies. It is in everyone's interest — the public, the regulators, Honeywell and the developer — that the project is done in a way that protects health and the environment.

To be clear, construction at Harbor Point will be performed in a way that is safe for the community and the workers. The Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will oversee the project. MDE will be on the site every day during construction. Honeywell, which inherited the former plant and responsibility for the site, will monitor the work to make sure the remedy remains protective and contractors will work under Maryland Occupational Health and Safety regulations to protect workers on the site.

Extensive multi-phase studies from both the MDE and the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University have already demonstrated that "the concentrations of toxic Cr(VI) in the porewater and surface water of Baltimore Harbor are well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's and the Maryland Department of Environment's water quality criteria for this contaminant." These studies clearly demonstrate that aquatic organisms are not being affected by hexavalent chromium. Another study is not necessary.

The authors also suggest broader air monitoring to determine the relative levels of hexavalent chromium in the air near the site and elsewhere in the city. While the recommended study may be relevant to a better understanding of urban air pollution, regional studies are not, and should not be, required of a developer. That is the role of government, if the agencies determine they are needed. Under the supervision of federal and state regulatory agencies, the developer is required to conduct both background and construction air monitoring related to its project.

Your readers might be interested to know that the federal government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in 2007 stated there were 137 facilities in Maryland that used chromium. None of those are related to construction at Harbor Point, which has not yet occurred.

John Morris, Morristown, N.J.

The writer is employed by Honeywell as director of remediation.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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