Contaminated debris from World War II era being tested at U.S. Coast Guard Yard

Environmental regulators are investigating what appear to be World War II-era debris at the U.S. Coast Guard Yard base in Curtis Bay that was previously designated a Superfund site because of contaminants in the soil.

Although early testing has not found anything that would pose an immediate threat, fishing and crabbing have been suspended at a pier in the immediate vicinity of the contamination, which is in the southeastern portion of the yard in northern Anne Arundel County, near the Baltimore city line. The Curtis Bay site is the only Coast Guard ship repair yard in the nation.

The Yard said it has notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland Department of the Environment of the discovery of contaminants. It also has hired a certified environmental testing firm to conduct further investigation.

The Curtis Bay base was previously designated a Superfund site — part of a national registry of sites designated for federally supervised cleanup — after a century of building and repairing ships. It underwent an 11-year, $16 million cleanup to remove some 50,000 tons of contaminated dirt. The work completed in 2013.

But the new development suggests more contamination remains underground. Contaminants were found in an area of about one-third of an acre in the southernmost part of the “Grove Site.” They mostly included poly-aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls.

In a statement, the base’s commanding officer, Capt. Matt Lake, stressed the Yard’s commitment to the public health and to protecting the ecosystem of the nearby Chesapeake Bay, and promised to work with the EPA and MDE.

While the burial of contaminated materials was legal at the time, the Yard said it hopes to clean up historic contamination anywhere on its property.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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