Baltimore County, City Officials Speak Out Against Proposal To Process Ohio Train Derailment Waste In Dundalk


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BALTIMORE COUNTY - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to send thousands of gallons of contaminated water from the Norfolk Southern train derailment to be processed in the Baltimore area; County and City officials are not having it.

On Friday, March 24, 2023, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works was notified by Clean Harbors Environmental Services that it was selected by the Environmental Protection Agency to accept, 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 in East Palestine, Ohio that occurred on February 3.

The EPA approved 675,000 thousand gallons of water contaminated with toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride to be treated at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk. That's enough contaminated water to fill at least 19 train tank cars.

Why the Baltimore area?

According to the EPA, Norfolk Southern is responsible for the cleanup. The company must find approved treatment and disposal locations and contract directly with the businesses/municipalities to process the water.

"The EPA reviews and approves the treatment facilities to make sure they are properly permitted and compliant to ensure the environment and public health are protected. There are several facilities throughout the US that are taking material from the derailment," Officials said in a statement.

The response from local officials:

Baltimore County Fifth District Councilman David Marks, representing the Essex area, condemned the EPA's decision on Saturday morning.

"The Back River treatment plant has a long history of problems that have compromised public health and the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. It's mind-boggling that the federal government and the state not only acquiesced to this idea but provided virtually no notice to Baltimore County."

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski made his views clear in a Facebook post.

"To be absolutely clear — I do not want the contaminated water treated here. Baltimore County Government does not have the authority to reject what's being proposed. If treatment happens here, I have called for the Maryland Department of the Environment and/or Environmental Protection Agency to pre-inspect the proposed facility and to be on-site for regular testing prior to any discharges going into the Baltimore wastewater system — and to share this sampling data with the public," Olszewski wrote.

Baltimore County District 7A delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki said they plan to introduce emergency legislation to prevent Maryland from becoming a dumping ground for Ohio's toxic waste.

'There is no amount of money that could possibly pay to process the toxic cleanup waste from the chemical disaster in Ohio," Szeliga said.

"As a member of the Environment and Transportation Committee, I have heard countless hours of testimony regarding the continual failures at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk," Nawrocki added. "This treatment plant has a history of sewage overflows. They certainly should not be trusted to process toxic waste into Maryland's greatest natural resource."

The delegates will meet in Annapolis next week to introduce emergency legislation prohibiting Maryland from processing the waste.

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