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Environment

For 140 years, the 27-acre parcel now known as Harbor Point was the site of Allied Signal’s Baltimore Works facility. At one time, the plant was the largest processor of chrome ore in the world and provided a majority of the chromium needed for the Allies during World War II. When operations ceased in 1985, the community was left with a vacant site that was leaching chromium-contaminated soil and groundwater into the Baltimore harbor.

 

In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), and Allied Signal (merged with Honeywell International in 1999) entered into a Consent Decree to clean up the former Baltimore Works site. The privately-funded $110 million demolition and containment effort was completed in 1999. This Consent Decree was unique at the time, because in addition to outlining a containment remedy and cleanup goals for the site, it also anticipated future reuse of the site.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is chromium?

Chromium is a mineral found in rocks, animals, plants, and soil. It is also found in byproducts of some types of manufacturing, such as leather tanning, certain steel manufacturing operations, and chrome ore processing. Generally, chromium exists in two forms: trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium is predominantly man-made and it is present in the environment at much lower levels than trivalent chromium.

 

At certain levels, exposure to hexavalent chromium can affect people’s health. Most human studies focus on how hexavalent chromium affects people who work with chrome or chrome byproducts because these people are at a greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects.

 

Studies that compare the health of people who live near sites that contain hexavalent chromium with people who don’t have found no statistically significant differences in the health of the two groups.

What is the containment remedy for the former Baltimore Works site?

The consent decree required a remedy that permanently contains chromium-contaminated soils and groundwater within the site, eliminates human and animal contact with the contamination, and prevents further contamination of surrounding soils, surface and groundwater. The containment system consists of the following elements:

 

  • An underground slurry trench barrier that encircles the property. The barrier wall is three feet thick and averages 70 feet deep. It is constructed out of bentonite clay and effectively seals off the groundwater under the site at bedrock level, preventing it from reaching the Patapsco River.

 

  • A groundwater containment system, which includes the barrier wall and pumping wells, prevents any groundwater from leaving the site.

 

  • A three-foot thick multi-media cap isolates the chromium soils and prevents storm water infiltration into that soil. The cap includes a capillary break layer that prevents water from rising up to the impermeable cap above. The multi-media cap has a synthetic clay layer, a geomembrane layer, a drainage layer, and a clean layer of sand and gravel.

 

The consent decree requires Honeywell, in perpetuity, to continue to monitor, maintain, and repair this containment system.

What is the lifespan of the multi-media cap?

The useful life of a multi-component cover system in the protected, low temperature (i.e., approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit) setting of the Harbor Point site will be 500 – 1,000 years or more, based on studies performed by the EPA, U.S. National Research Council (NRC, 2007), and independent researchers (Koerner et al., 2002 and 2011). The critical component of the cover system is a geomembrane layer, which at Harbor Point is made of low-density polyethylene.

What is the life expectancy of the liner system/the geomembrane?

The geomembrane layer significantly exceeds the expected life of the proposed development. Deterioration of the geomembrane is not expected to occur during the life of the development. Moreover, the building basement slab that will overlie the cover system both protects the cover system and is another barrier (in addition to the geomembrane) between contaminated soils and the building occupants.

What is a brownfield?

A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.

Is Harbor Point a Superfund site?

No. A Superfund site allows the EPA to clean up contaminated sites, either by forcing the parties responsible for the contamination to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work. These impacted sites often sit idle for decades while the EPA battles multiple responsible parties and tries to come up with acceptable cleanup and funding plans. The cleanup of the former Baltimore Works site was far more straightforward and certain, as Allied Signal and then Honeywell cooperated with regulators as the sole responsible party. As result there were no protracted lawsuits holding up cleanup and no public funding was used.

Why didn't regulators require all hexavalent chromium be removed from the former Baltimore Works site?

During the 1980s, a range of alternative remedies were evaluated, including removing the chromium. The decision for the containment remedy was based in part on the technical difficulties associated with excavation of a site surrounded almost completely by water and the decision by federal and state regulators that a containment remedy would protect health and the environment and allow for redevelopment.

Have techniques today improved to the point where you could safely remove the chromium?

The remedy for the former Baltimore Works site was finalized in 1992. Each site has a remedy that is particular to that site. While some remedial techniques improve over time, the technical challenges associated with excavation at the former Baltimore Works site were the result of site conditions, and those challenges would still be present today. Once implemented, remedies are evaluated periodically to make sure they are safe and effective. The data for Harbor Point shows that this remedy is protecting human health and the environment.

Why was chromium taken off the list of contaminants that cause problems for the Harbor?

12 years after work was completed to prevent chromium at the former Baltimore Works site from affecting the environment, 100% of the more than 4,400 samples drawn from the waters of the harbor meet criteria for chrome levels set out in the Consent Decree that was signed in 1989 by the EPA, MDE, and Honeywell.

 

The Clean Water Act requires states to assess what chemicals are affecting the use of a water body and to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for those substances that are affecting a particular water body. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the MDE identified numerous different pollutants that it believed affected the Inner Harbor, including fecal coliform bacteria, total chromium, zinc, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and nutrients, which can impact biological communities.

 

Since that listing, a significant amount of scientific research and data regarding the toxicity of chromium in water bodies has emerged. Many of the important studies were conducted by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Contaminant Transport, Fate, and Remediation. Others were conducted by the EPA and MDE. That scientific research demonstrated that the chromium present in the Inner Harbor is present in a trivalent (rather than hexavalent) form, and that trivalent chromium in sediments is generally non-toxic. MDE’s Water Quality Analysis showed that the harbor is not impaired by chromium. The MDE submitted that Water Quality Analysis to the EPA for final determination on whether the harbor will no longer be listed as impaired by chromium. The harbor would remain listed as impaired by other pollutants.

Is there heaving at the Harbor Point site that threatens the cap?

No. In general, heaving may occur when very large volumes of pure chromium residue are disposed of in an area with a fluctuating water table, or other source of water. The former Baltimore Works site was a production facility. Only minor quantities of residue are documented to have been present at the site, however the site was not used for disposal of large quantities of chrome residue. There has been no heaving associated with the Baltimore site. The site is monitored and there has been no change in the elevation of the cap for more than 13 years.

Why is this remedy different from the one in Jersey City where a federal judge ordered Honeywell to excavate chromium residue?

Honeywell has been working under the supervision and at the direction of state regulators, and in some cases the federal court, to remediate chrome sites in New Jersey by excavating, capping, or in some cases treating. Each site has specific conditions and end uses requiring different remedial approaches.

 

In Jersey City, the original Mutual Chemical plant site was successfully capped and has been the home of a Home Depot store for many years. The lawsuit focused on the site across the street, the former 34-acre Roosevelt Drive-in site, where the chromium residue was deposited. The court required excavation of the site because the large volumes of chromium residue deposited there exhibited significant heaving. The remediated property is now part of a 100-acre site that has both approved excavation and containment remedies (in areas that are not subject to heaving). At another chrome site in the immediate area, Honeywell successfully completed a remediation that included both capping and excavation.

Construction

The development of a project of this size on a multi-media cap in an urban setting is the first of its kind. The environmental conditions of the former Baltimore Works site have resulted in complex challenges throughout construction. The solutions to these construction challenges have made Harbor Point an exemplary model for the revitalization of former waterfront industrial sites across the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you construct new buildings on the multi-media cap?

Construction will include driving piles to support the new buildings. Utilizing proven construction techniques and detailed procedures approved by the EPA and MDE, the contractor will open portions of the multi-media cap to allow the piles to be installed and then reseal the cap.

How can the integrity of the containment system be maintained if you have to repeatedly pierce the cap with pilings?

The piles at the Harbor Point site will be installed using proven methods that connect the cap geomembrane to the pile walls. Specifically, at the Harbor Point site, the existing geomembrane will be cut at the pile locations to create an opening in the geomembrane that is large enough to perform the necessary construction of the pile foundation without damaging the surrounding geomembrane. After installation of the piles, the geomembrane will be repaired and the repairs will be tested to confirm that the repaired geomembrane meets the installation standards.

 

There are several published studies of the integrity of synthetic membranes (i.e., geomembranes) that have been penetrated by pile foundations. For example, a study by Wright, S. E., and Fournier, M. (2013) describes the successful installation of piles through an existing multi-layered cap, which includes a geomembrane layer.

 

The engineering firm responsible for the original design and oversight of the containment remedy, including the installation of the geomembrane, is part of the developer’s team, and will coordinate and oversee construction activities with the remedy so that the integrity of the liner is protected.

Do regulatory agencies have to approve your plans?

Yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) have to approve the detailed development plans before construction can begin. The plans, including operating procedures that will be overseen by both agencies, ensure that construction will be done in a way that protects human health, the environment, and the existing remedy at the former Baltimore Works site. The Consent Decree requires that any construction not jeopardize the integrity of the remedy.

Will construction of buildings weaken the cap?

No. The redevelopment will further strengthen the already strong containment system. For example, during redevelopment, additional clean soil will be placed across the site, thereby thickening the protective cover. Impervious surfaces (concrete, steel, and asphalt) used for buildings, roadways, and plazas will be constructed and also will provide an additional barrier to the contaminated soils underneath the cap.

Will driving piles and erecting buildings on the capped area weaken the hydraulic barrier, the slurry wall, and/or the containment remedy?

No. The hydraulic barrier consists of a mixture of soil and a special sealing clay “bentonite.” The development work will enhance the longevity and effectiveness of the barrier by driving a steel sheet pile within the barrier. The sheet pile is to be installed along Wills and Dock Streets where development precludes future access for barrier repair. The steel sheet pile installation will be a permanent feature, adding redundancy to the barrier to prevent the flow of groundwater into or from the Harbor.

Should the development somehow compromise the containment system, does the developer have the required financial assurances?

Honeywell maintains financial assurances, as required by Maryland regulations. In addition, the Consent Decree requires that Honeywell, in perpetuity, continue to monitor, maintain, and repair the containment system.

Health and Safety

Our top priority is ensuring the health and safety of the community and the workers throughout construction. All work is being done under the supervision of government regulators and employs science-driven, proven solutions to protect public health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the presence of chromium at the site affect my health?

For a chemical to pose a significant risk to health, exposure to the chemical must occur. The exposure must be for a significant period of time and in a quantity that has been identified as high enough to result in possible health effects. Because any chromium at the site will be contained and carefully monitored at all times, no exposure is anticipated.

How might I be exposed to chromium?

We are all exposed to small amounts of chromium every day in urban environments. You can be exposed to chromium by breathing air, drinking water or eating foods that contain chromium, or through skin contact with chromium.

Why does the air in Baltimore have hexavalent chromium? Is it coming from the site? If not, then where is it coming from?

The chromium in the air is not related to the former Baltimore Works site. It is not coming from the site. In an urban environment like Baltimore or other large cities, there are numerous sources of airborne chromium. For example, chromium can be found in steel used in construction, automobiles, and many other types of industry. For many years, chromium was used as a wood preservative. According to the federal government’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, in 2007 there were 137 industrial facilities in Maryland that used chromium in some way. The chromium at the former Baltimore Works site has been contained.

If the health risks are minimal, why do workers remediating chrome-contaminated sites wear protective clothing?

Workers in such circumstances might come in contact with chromium either in the air, soil or groundwater. OSHA standards apply to worksites like these and are designed to protect workers’ health and safety under real-life workplace conditions. During the Harbor Point construction, workers will not have to wear protective clothing.

How will contaminated soil and water be handled at the site?

Limited amounts of contaminated material (soil, concrete and asphalt) will be directly loaded into lined, roll-off boxes for off-site disposal at an approved, permitted facility. The limited amount of storm water that may come into contact with contaminated material will be collected and temporarily stored in double-wall portable tanks, where it will be tested and properly disposed of, if necessary, based on the test results.ve clothing.

How will you ensure the safety of the community during construction?

Because construction will involve piercing the cap, Beatty Development has implemented a comprehensive air monitoring plan with Federal and State regulators, which includes daily air and dust monitoring from locations around the site while intrusive work is underway. EPA and MDE will provide oversight and make frequent on-site visits. MDE will be on-site during key construction activities that penetrate the soils under the cap.

What is the air monitoring plan?

Using EPA-approved methods and protocol, dust will be monitored in real-time 24 hours a day during the work week; dust is used as an indicator for chromium. Hexavalent chromium samples will be collected over a 24-hour period each work day during instrusive work below the cap. Monitoring will be performed at the work zone and at the site perimeter. Environmental professionals and government regulators will review results to ensure that air quality plans are being followed and actions taken to control dust. The data will be posted to the air monitoring site the next business day. Hexavalent chromium results will be posted once independent laboratory results and validation reports are received from the independent, third-party data validating firm.

How will air monitoring be done?

Perimeter air monitoring stations will be located at the property boundary. Air will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week at these fixed perimeter locations. Additionally, work zone air monitoring stations will be operated during work hours when the soil beneath the cap may be exposed, and located immediately upwind and downwind of exposed soil during excavation and loading. Work zone stations will be adjusted daily according to wind direction. The work zone stations will monitor the air at the work zones before it reaches the site perimeter thereby creating a buffer between the work zone and the site perimeter. In addition to measuring dust at the perimeter and work zone stations, air samples also will be collected and analyzed for total particulates and hexavalent chromium concentrations.

 

In the event that the real-time dust concentration in the work zone exceeds the dust alarm level, response actions will be taken immediately to first identify and then correct any activity possibly contributing to the elevated dust readings. Perimeter air monitoring stations will be actively observed during any response to elevated dust levels. Should the dust readings remain at or above the dust alarm level after one hour of signaling, all potential dust generating activities will be stopped. Work will not resume until any activity possibly contributing to elevated dust readings have been corrected and the dust readings are continuously below the dust alarm level for 15 minutes after stopping work.

How will dust be controlled?

Perimeter air monitoring stations will be located at the property boundary. Air will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week at these fixed perimeter locations. Additionally, work zone air monitoring stations will be operated during work hours when the soil beneath the cap may be exposed, and located immediately upwind and downwind of exposed soil during excavation and loading. Work zone stations will be adjusted daily according to wind direction. The work zone stations will monitor the air at the work zones before it reaches the site perimeter thereby creating a buffer between the work zone and the site perimeter. In addition to measuring dust at the perimeter and work zone stations, air samples also will be collected and analyzed for total particulates and hexavalent chromium concentrations.

 

Demonstrated, effective dust control measures have been put in place and are designed to keep concentrations below the dust action levels approved by the agencies. These measures include:

 

  • Using water misting to maintain soil moisture to suppress dust generation and to prevent dust transport during excavation.
  • Limiting the size that areas where the underlying soil is exposed at any one time.

 

Placing clean materials, including geotextile fabric and gravel cover soil, over impacted soil to prevent worker contact and reduce potential airborne dust.

How will the community know if air monitoring criteria are exceeded?

Should the dust alarm level be exceeded, an event log will be prepared, including the activities performed in response to elevated dust readings, and will be posted on Harbor Point’s website.

How will the community be informed about the air monitoring results?

Air monitoring results will be collected in real-time and posted on the air monitoring map the next business day. Air monitoring data posted on the website will note the reason for any exceedances of the action level. These are likely to include sources unrelated to redevelopment including idling trucks, commuter traffic, weather such as fog, and other off-site construction activities.

TIF

In 2013, the Baltimore City Council approved a $107M tax increment financing package for Harbor Point. The Harbor Point TIF serves as a source of financing for the public infrastructure costs associated with developing on a remediated site. TIF has been used successfully by many cities across the country. However, there are often many misconceptions about what it is, how it works, and how it is used.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TIF?

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a municipal financing tool for funding public infrastructure, primarily associated with the construction of real estate development projects. It ensures that a significant economic development project with potential to yield substantial benefits for the city can move forward.

How does TIF work?

TIF functions by capturing new, or incremental, taxes generated by a specific development project, and investing those new taxes to finance and construct public infrastructure – such as roads, utilities, lighting, public parks, promenades, and schools that are necessary before a new development project can occur. In this manner, TIF functions to support new development used to generate new tax revenue, eliminate blight and vacant property, and spur economic development. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore must consider and approve all TIF related legislation, and all bond financing terms must be approved by the Board of Finance.

Why is TIF necessary for Harbor Point?

Historically, cities such as Baltimore would construct public infrastructure such as roads and parks ahead of new private development. The Harbor Point site currently has no public infrastructure, so the City needs to look at innovative ways to pay for such infrastructure so that private development will occur and the City can reap all of the benefits of the project such as new jobs, new City residents, eliminating blighted and vacant property, and significant new tax revenues. In today’s budget climate, Baltimore is unable to fund this infrastructure by simply paying for the improvements from City, State, and Federal funds. With TIF, the City is able to borrow the necessary funds at competitive market prices and repay the borrowed funds with new revenues generated directly from the project without detracting from any City-wide services and using any existing City revenues.

What are the Harbor Point TIF funds being used for?

The Harbor Point TIF is to be used ONLY for public infrastructure – roads, utilities, parks, etc. – the kinds of infrastructure that the public sector typically builds. Beatty Development Group (a private developer) pays for the buildings and other amenities at Harbor Point. This combination of public and private investments is essential for making a large-scale project like Harbor Point a reality.

Is TIF a corporate giveaway program?

No. A special fund is created into which these incremental real property taxes are placed. Withdrawals are made from this special fund to cover debt payments on the TIF bonds. Although carefully underwritten so that the incremental taxes are sufficient to pay the bonds, any gap is covered by the creation of a “special taxing district” in which the developer and property owners in that district pay a “special” tax to make up the difference. Property owners in other parts of the city will never pay this special tax.

Is TIF a tax break for the developer?

TIF is NOT a tax break for the developer. Under a TIF, the property owners within the TIF district are required to pay full property taxes less any “by-right” tax credits that exist such as the Enterprise Zone or Brownfields Tax Credits. By law, TIF funds will NOT be used to finance private improvements and TIF does NOT lower a property owner’s taxes. In fact, the owners of the property within the TIF district bear the risk of increased taxes being levied upon them should the incremental taxes be insufficient to make bond payments.

Does TIF use money from the city’s general fund?

No. The initial capital for TIF comes from the developer. That capital is used to fund the infrastructure costs. After development is complete, the bonds are sold and the developer is reimbursed. This protects the city from unforeseen development risks. Absolutely no money comes out of the general fund.

Do taxpayers pick up the tab for unanticipated infrastructure costs or cost overruns at Harbor Point?

No. The TIF legislation and bond documents clearly state that the developer, Beatty Development, picks up additional costs if the project exceeds the original TIF amount. Cost overruns are not paid by the general fund and taxpayers are not exposed to this risk.

What are the financial benefits and costs to the City of the project?

The Harbor Point project will produce significant new tax revenues for the City. The pre­development assessed value of the property is estimated at $11,116,200 and the City collected pre-development property taxes in the amount of approximately $249,892 per year. At project completion, the property is expected to be initially assessed at $872 million and the City anticipates collecting on average $18 million per year at full build-out, and after netting out the costs of TIF financing.

Are there other financial benefits of TIF?

Yes. The city, through its consultants, prepares estimates of other sources of revenue other than property taxes. Other sources include personal property taxes, hotel occupancy tax revenues, and personal income tax revenues. All told, these revenues add another $3 million, on average, per year after reduction for the cost of city services.

Can public school funding be reduced by new developments, like Harbor Point, which are supported by TIF?

No. The Maryland General Assembly recently passed legislation to ensure that TIF would not inadvertently affect school funding.

Questions? Concerns?

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