Sparrows Point contamination in creek poses some health risk

Source:, April 21, 2016
By: Pamela Wood

More than a century of steelmaking at Sparrows Point has left contaminants in Bear Creek that pose a slight health risk to humans, according to a new report presented to the public Thursday night.
As part of the ongoing cleanup of the former steel mill in southeastern Baltimore County, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have begun studying off-shore contamination.
Scientists collected samples of water, sediment, fish tissue and crab meat, and used computer models to analyze the risk.
The worst contamination in Bear Creek was near the mill’s Tin Mill Canal, which was used for decades to discharge water and wastewater into the creek. People who swim in the area face no extra risk, but people who eat a lot of fish and crabs caught there would have an increased cancer risk, according to the report, which was presented at a public meeting in Dundalk Thursday night.
Farther upstream on Bear Creek toward Dundalk, there was less contamination, and swimming in the creek posed no extra risk. Eating fish and crabs posed no extra risk, according to analysis of the fish tissue and crab meat. But computer models for eating fish and crabs showed an increased cancer risk.
MDE and EPA officials urged people to be mindful of the state’s seafood consumption advisories, which already caution people to limit the amount of fish and crabs they eat from the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor area, which includes the creeks around Sparrows Point.
The risk analysis assumed a person would eat 32 meals of fish and crabs caught in the creek per year, which is more than the state recommends.
Environmental regulators have not yet determined if they should take any actions to clean up the offshore contamination. Their next step is to take samples in the creeks on the opposite side of the steel mill property near the Sparrows Point neighborhood.
Meanwhile, cleanup efforts continue on the 3,100-acre former steel mill property itself, which is being redeveloped as an industrial campus called Tradepoint Atlantic.
The site was used as a steel mill for more than a century, mostly as a Bethlehem Steel facility. After a series of ownership changes, the mill closed for good in 2012.
In 2014, the current owners bought the property and entered into environmental agreements with the state and federal governments, promising to spend at least $50 million on cleanups.

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