Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (May 29, 2009) - Today the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) received a “notice of intent” from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Baltimore Harborkeeper to file a lawsuit against MDE and the Environmental Protection Agency for Severstal being out of compliance with a 1997 Consent Decree to clean up pollution at Sparrow’s Point. The following is a statement from MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson:

We understand the concerns of local residents -- and environmental groups -- about Sparrow’s Point. Cleaning up Sparrows Point is a massive undertaking, because we are reversing the damage done by more than 100 years of industrial use to meet modern day environmental standards. We look forward to a revised Consent Decree and working with all of the interested parties on these issues.

MDE and EPA continue to oversee the required cleanup work by the new owner of Bethlehem Steel/Sparrow’s Point, Severstal, pursuant to a Consent Decree entered into in 1997. As CBF and the Waterkeepers are aware, in 2008 MDE initiated negotiations to update the existing Consent Decree to add more specific remediation deadlines as result of environmental assessment and investigation work completed over the past 12 years, to improve the community relations plan, and to ensure the progress on clean-up work is as transparent as possible.

A number of environmental assessments have been completed at the 2,300 acre Sparrow’s Point over the past 12 years to determine the amount of contamination resulting from more than 100 years of heavy industrial use. These assessments now enable MDE and EPA to determine where remediation should be focused, as well as the extent and complexity of the necessary remediation. MDE has discussed with Severstal a requirement for a more open and effective community outreach plan to ensure the public has much improved access to information about the site. Information about the Sparrow’s Point cleanup has not always been as accessible as we would like. Copies of relevant documents were made available at the local North Point Public Library in October 2007.

It’s very important that all interested parties are fully aware of all the facts and have up-to-date information. Severstal is in compliance with the Consent Decree and there are no immediate public health threats. MDE continues to inspect the site in response to citizen complaints about ongoing operations and compliance with the Consent Decree. In 2008, MDE inspected the site 8 times and, to date, in 2009 we have inspected the site 5 times.

Because the Consent Decree was designed following an “iterative” approach, the current Decree focuses on investigation and lacks specific requirements or timeframes regarding remediation. Therefore, MDE has asked the EPA to work together using our enforcement tools, such as revising or amending the 1997 Consent Decree, to direct the responsible parties to develop a final clean-up remedy on a specific timetable.

MDE and EPA are in negotiations now over a draft timeframe, and we hope to have a commitment to a final timeframe from Severstal in the coming month.

MDE has been in communication with CBF since December 2008 and requested an opportunity for MDE and EPA to meet with CBF to explain the work completed at the Sparrow’s Point site pursuant to the Consent Decree. A meeting to do that is scheduled for next week.

For more information about the Consent Decree to clean up Sparrow’s Point, visit: