Baltimore City Paper

EPA Rejects Harbor Point Development Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency dealt a setback to the Harbor Point developers today, rejecting a "Detailed Development Plan" for the Exelon Tower because of errors in the environmental sampling. "We couldn't accept it," says Donna Heron, a press officer with EPA's Mid Atlantic Region. "They have to go back and re-do it." Beatty Development has secured more than $100 million in city tax breaks for the project, which is set to include two hotels, office space, retail and several parks. The site is monitored by Honeywell International, which agreed to monitor the air over dump site filled with hexavalent chromium, a dangerous toxin. To build the new towers, developer Michael Beatty (pictured) plans to break through a four-foot thick clay cap on the toxins and drive pilings to the bedrock below. Keeping the chromium out of the air will be tricky, and the tests done so far are meant to set a baseline for contaminants already present in the air. But those tests were done improperly, EPA says. They will have to be redone and checked by a third party before being resubmitted to the EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment, which shares responsibility for the site. Heron says she doesn't know how often EPA rejects such submissions. But, she says, "this is a normal process that we go through." Nonetheless, a 12-page attachment of "review comments" released by EPA points to multiple problems with the way the site was monitored. EPA found:

  • Obsolete detection equipment.
  • Two monitors were placed improperly as to have possibly gotten "artificially high results."
  • Results that are impossible, mathematically and practically—measured contamination rates whose fractions are larger than the total contaminates measured. "It would appear that the collection equipment was not operating as intended."
  • The developer failed to analyze all the "media blanks" for all the samples, instead only analyzing two per hundred. When one was contaminated the other took on too much importance, what EPA calls a "high bias qualification." Equipment was not calibrated daily as required. "The lack of adequate instrument calibration creates great uncertainty regarding the reported hexavalent chromium results."

Also this: the sampled air "pre-construction background" contamination, which forms the baseline from which new contamination would be measured, is suspiciously dirty. A call to Beatty Development was not immediately returned.