FILE - Cleanup continues on Feb. 24, 2023, at the site of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that happened on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio. Norfolk Southern is backing away from its push to reduce its train crews down to one person, the company said, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in a joint statement with the nation's largest rail union. (AP Photo/Matt Freed, File)

The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore County is expected to process a “significant” number of gallons of liquid wastewater sent over from East Palestine, Ohio train derailment, officials said Friday afternoon during a hastily-called joint news conference on the steps of the historic courthouse in Towson.

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said they learned about the plan late last night through a letter.

Contractor Clean Harbors of Baltimore Environmental Services Inc., described itself as the “optimal wastewater treatment site to treat and discharge the wastewater collected from rainwater, collected water and stream water above and below the cleanup site of the Norfolk Southern Railroad derailment,” according to a copy of the letter shared with WYPR.

A representative of Clean Harbors wrote that it expects to begin receiving this wastewater “immediately once approval is granted,” the letter continued.

There is already 675,000 gallons of wastewater loaded on railcars as the initial water volume to process, according to the company’s letter.

“The proposed treatment scheme will be carbon adsorption using 4×12 mesh reagglomerated carbon followed by inorganic metals removal as needed,” according to the letter. “The primary constituent of concern is vinyl chloride.”

Data provided by the railroad giant showed there was some vinyl chloride in the water up to 62 parts per billion. So-called forever chemicals PFOA and PFOS were also present, according to third party data in slight excess of the EPA’s proposed drinking water standard.

“Clean Harbors will treat the wastewater by filtering through the reagglomerated carbon to produce an effluent below 4 ppt PFOA and PFOS,” according to the letter. “We look forward to your response and to helping our country with the proper management of this wastewater.”

The response was swift.

“Both the county executive and I have grave concerns about the waste from this derailment coming into our facilities and being discharged into our system,” Scott said.

Olszewski echoed those concerns.

“We want to make sure that our residents have every confidence that if this is going to happen it’s done safely and so our teams will be joining with the mayor’s team to ensure that we are asking as many questions as we can,” he said.

Read more at WYPR.

2 replies on “Baltimore’s Back River plant to process wastewater from Ohio train derailment”

  1. I saw Mayor Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny O on TV today outside the Old Baltimore County Court House. Johnny O didn’t look too happy and although Mayor Scott tried to put a good face on the Back River Plant despite it’s many many problems both seemed taken aback by the way they were informed of the train wreck waste water. They were informed by a contractor, not the Federal EPA. Mayor Scott and his team often use the term “due diligence” when referring to safety and technical subjects. To me that’s a cop out. I have yet to hear OSHA or a Safety Officer mentioned. Does Baltimore City have a Safety Officer? What kind of an Engineering Department does Baltimore City have? I know Baltimore County had a good one. This is not criticism of Mayor Scott, I wouldn’t want to be in your position, but I think you realize now that saying “due diligence” will be taken, about anything, but especially about this contaminated water handed to you by a contractor needs your and County Executive Johnny O’s due diligence. I think you are both up to the task. These are technical issues but I think both of you have the intellect to grasp them. And you both have a great deal of authority, by law. A wake up call to see if you are professional administrators or politicians.

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