Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (January 22 2008) - The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is announcing the results of a recent study of public parks in Baltimore City. Following a request from the Commissioner of Health of Baltimore, Secretary Shari Wilson directed MDE staff to investigate the surface soils at other Baltimore City parks and public open areas to determine whether they were potentially impacted by past operational activities or releases of controlled hazardous substances.

“Ensuring protection of public health is the first priority for MDE,” said Secretary Shari T. Wilson of the Maryland Department of the Environment. “This study was a proactive step to determine whether any other situations similar to Swann Park exist.”

The review found no significant risk to public health. In eight parks, the sample results were consistent with or below usual urban background rates.

MDE selected 12 parks for a screening assessment based on identification of historic neighboring land uses that had the potential to cause soil contamination issues. Testing included arsenic, vanadium, lead, mercury, chromium, and other heavy metals. At each site, MDE collected 10 random samples. Most sampling was conducted using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) screening technology. Several confirmatory soil samples from each site were also sent to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s laboratory for analysis.

In four parks (Cherry Hill, Latrobe, Carroll Park, and Garrett Park), one or more samples contained arsenic at levels minimally higher than levels identified by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) as typical urban background rates. These levels do not pose any immediate health concern. Baltimore City will conduct additional sampling in these areas to determine whether any further assessment is warranted. These levels were far below the levels found at Swann Park.

“MDE’s report is reassuring to those of us wondering whether another Swann Park situation exists in a different city park,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Commissioner of Health.

The report can be viewed on MDE’s website at