EPA waiting to clear abandoned Baltimore warehouses of chemicals deemed 'a seven-alarm fire' risk

Hundreds of barrels of toxic chemicals — enough to cause a seven-alarm blaze if they ignited, a fire official told regulators — remain in two abandoned and dilapidated warehouses in East Baltimore as the Environmental Protection Agency waits for permission to access a site that has been considered an environmental hazard since May.

The buildings on Quad Avenue, along a stream near the Baltimore County line, are overgrown and open to the elements, according to an EPA inspection report.

Inside, barrels of toxic substances labeled as flammable and corrosive were found stacked two or three high, many of them “corroded” and “distended,” according to EPA documents. Some of the barrels were open, revealing black, “oil-like” liquid, the documents said.

“We are maintaining site security and pursuing court-ordered access to complete the response action and conduct off-site disposal of the wastes which are currently separated and staged,” said David Sternberg, an EPA spokesman.

The cleanup is estimated to cost $1.8 million.

The warehouses were used for decades to manufacture epoxies used in floor coating, and, more recently, for production of biofuels.

City housing inspectors found the barrels of chemicals in a May visit to the site, after being tipped off by a Maryland Department of the Environment inspector that the warehouses contained large amounts of chemicals and that the owner of the buildings could not be reached.

Records show the owner to be Kinloch Nelson Yellott III. But the documents say that once EPA officials were able to reach the man, he “indicated that he did not believe that he still owned the property as it was sold in a tax sale.”

City records show that a $14,000 lien on the properties, 6624 and 6630 Quad Ave., was sold to New York-based Stonefield Investment Fund IV LLC in the tax sale held in May 2017. Under the state tax sale process, an investor that buys a lien on a property can move to foreclose six months later. The investor’s right to foreclose on the property lasts two years from the date of the tax sale.

Yellott could not be reached for comment on this article.

Businesses that have operated out of the site include Haven Corp., a floor coatings business that moved to the site in 1979; Free State Bio Fuels; and Eagle Creek Fuel Services.

Among the substances stored in the warehouses are methanol and triethylene glycol, both flammable chemicals, and epoxy constituents that bear labels declaring them an “ENVIRONMENTALLY HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE,” such as Bisphenol A diglycidyl ether.

During the May inspection, a Baltimore City Fire Department battalion chief who visited the site warned city housing officials “that a fire at this location would likely be ‘a seven alarm’ fire and catastrophic to the area, from both a fire and environmental impact.”

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