The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant near Baltimore. Photo by Kristian Bjornard/Wikimedia Commons.

Local officials have blocked Norfolk Southern railroad and Clean Harbors treatment company from bringing contaminated East Palestine, Ohio wastewater to Baltimore for processing. Clean Harbors announced Tuesday morning that the wastewater will be processed elsewhere.

Norfolk Southern had hired Baltimore contractor Clean Harbors of Baltimore Environmental Services, Inc. to remove toxic chemicals from between 600,000 to 800,000 gallons of water from around the crash site of last month’s trail derailment in Ohio.

The initial agreement brought swift and strong opposition from environmental advocates and Baltimore and Maryland state officials alike.

“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,” Mayor Brandon Scott said on Friday when he’d been made aware of the agreement.

The nonprofit organization Blue Water Baltimore released a statement, saying, “We are gravely concerned about how this wastewater will be transported from Ohio to Baltimore, and local residents need assurances that none of this toxic wastewater will spill into our precious streams, rivers, or communities, and regulatory agencies must provide detailed plans about how this will be accomplished safely, given the nature of the Norfolk Southern Railroad derailment that caused the spill, fire, and water contamination in the first place.”

Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen called the plan and its roll-out “disrespectful” and “inappropriate.”

“Baltimore is already environmentally overburdened by toxic pollution, and shoulders too much of the burden of environmental toxicity,” he said.

Cohen introduced a resolution at Monday evening’s City Council meeting calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to block Norfolk Southern’s plan to send toxic wastewater to Baltimore City for processing. The council voted unanimously (14-0) to pass the resolution.

On his Facebook page, Cohen wrote, “Thank you to my colleagues for unanimously passing our Resolution on toxic water. Too often cities with high rates of concentrated poverty and environmental degradation are asked to shoulder the burden for corporate malfeasance. East Palestine and Baltimore deserve better.”

On Monday evening, Mayor Scott said his law department determined Baltimore city could “shield its sewer system from the Ohio wastewater by modifying the discharge permit issued to Clean Harbors to ‘safeguard Publicly Owned Treatment Works.’” In essence, they plan to deny Clean Harbor the right to dump the treated water into Baltimore City’s sewer system.

Jim Buckley, spokesperson for Clean Harbors, said of the collapsed deal, “While we are confident that our Baltimore facility is safe to handle and process that waste, as we have made clear from the beginning of this process, we would only be moving forward with the approval of all federal, state and local regulators.”

Cohen told Baltimore Fishbowl on Monday that if local officials denied Clean Harbors the ability to offload treated water into the city’s sewer system and treatment plants, it would be up to Clean Harbors to determine where else to send the treated water for processing.

“That’s really Clean Harbor’s problem at that point,” Cohen said.

One reply on “Plan for East Palestine’s contaminated water to be processed in Baltimore has been scrapped”

  1. Where is the Federal EPA? They are not in OHIO doing their job. This is a conspiracy to move the problem and still NO help to remove the families that are living in that cesspool!! They are telling the folks there the water is safe. I read that is moving down to Garrett County, MD already. Already infecting the fish. Someone in MD better start investigating!

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