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Harbor Point safety issues to be discussed at open house

Plans for developing a former Baltimore chemical plant now known as Harbor Point will be aired Wednesday as the developer and government regulators explain safeguards planned to prevent release of contaminated soil and ground water beneath the site.

An "open house" meeting is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Morgan Stanley building, 1300 Thames Street.

Representatives of Beatty Development Group, the Maryland Department of the Environment and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are expected to be on hand to answer individuals' questions, though there will be no formal presentations or public forum on the controversial project.

Some neighbors in Fells Point and others have questioned the safety of building there, but the developer and regulators say precautions are adequate, and other tainted industrial sites have been safely redeveloped.

Chromium was extracted from ore on the 27-acre site for 140 years before the plant closed in 1985. More than $100 million was spent clearing the surface and capping soil laced with cancer-causing chromium. A barrier also was constructed to keep contaminated ground water from seeping into the harbor.

Regulators have given preliminary approval to Beatty's plans to build a 22-story office tower for Exelon Corp. on the site. To do that, a series of openings will have to be made in the five-foot thick "cap," at least briefly exposing tainted soil in order to drive more than 1,000 pilings deep into the ground.

Officials say dust levels are to be closely monitored during the operation and steps will be taken, including stopping work, if there's any indication chromium is getting into the air.


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