Sparrows Point Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Citizen Suit
Since 2010, a CLA volunteer attorney has been representing Blue Water Baltimore (BWB) and neighboring residents in litigation to ensure that Sparrows Point, the former site of the Bethlehem Steel mill, is remediated adequately. The suit was for violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by operating without a hazardous waste management facility permit, violation of related hazardous waste laws, and violation of Maryland’s erosion and sediment control laws. Notably, environmental cleanup requirements were protected when the plant owners filed for bankruptcy, ensuring funds would be maintained to clean-up the site.
Located just south of Baltimore, the 2,300-acre site is heavily contaminated with pollutants, including lead, mercury, and arsenic. These pollutants have been carried to the Patapsco River and Bear Creek, tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, by stormwater runoff and groundwater migration, affecting water quality and the health and safety of residents in the neighboring communities.
In 2014, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Sparrows Point Terminal, LLC (SPT), the new owner, entered into an Administrative Consent Order that requires the site owners to carry out a comprehensive cleanup plan consistent with federal and state laws. This order includes specific deadlines and stipulated penalties for noncompliance.
SPT has posted financial assurance of $48 million to ensure performance of this work, and the amount must be revised upwards if cost estimates rise. SPT is also obligated to reimburse annually MDE’s oversight costs up to $100,000 per year. SPT also paid $3 million towards the offsite investigation and remediation. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency entered onto a parallel Settlement Agreement addressing many of the same activities, providing federal as well as state oversight and enforcement. This cleanup project will take time, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation and BWB will monitor its performance closely