Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (January 25, 2001) -- Bethlehem Steel Corporation will drastically reduce pollutant discharges from their Sparrows Point plant to comply with a new discharge permit to be issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Today, MDE announced its Final Determination to issue the strict new permit to the steel manufacturer.

To comply with this permit, Bethlehem Steel has agreed to construct new treatment facilities to achieve significant discharge reductions, including an 87 percent reduction (17 million pounds annually) in the discharge of metals and other suspended solids. Oil and grease pollution will be reduced by 3.7 million pounds annually, representing an 85 percent reduction. Additional provisions of the permit include stringent limits on concentrations of copper, lead, zinc, nickel, chromium, and cyanide

"The issues involved in this permit were extremely complex," said MDE Secretary Jane Nishida, "which required the Department to devote unprecedented levels of resources, effort and time to what now can be seen as a very successful outcome. I am especially gratified that the legal issues have been resolved and that the permit will not again be caught up in court challenges and administrative procedures."

The permit is the result of an extraordinary level of cooperation and communication between state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, and the industry. "We had an exceptional public participation process which resulted in extensive interaction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Cleanup Coalition and the University of Maryland Law Clinic, as well as with Bethlehem Steel and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)," MDE Assistant Secretary Robert Hoyt noted.

"Overall we're pleased with the new permit's conditions, and we're glad the long process of issuing it is finally complete," said Cleanup Coalition President Terry J. Harris. "When fully implemented, this permit will result in important reductions in toxic pollution going into the Bay, which makes the issuance a great accomplishment. MDE deserves a great deal of credit for keeping a fundamental emphasis on environmental protection in drafting this highly complex and technical permit."

University of Maryland Law Clinic Professor Rena Steinzor said, "This permit is a victory for the environment. In the end, all the diverse interests, under the leadership of MDE, with the wise guidance of EPA, reached a result that is both fair and progressive. We congratulate MDE staff for working long hours to find solutions that implement the law in a way that is livable for the company."

Bethlehem Steel agreed to the stringent new limits and the extensive work needed to meet them. "The ongoing dialogue was constructive and helped create new standards based on sound scientific data that does not compromise the environmental integrity of our operations and our commitment to the community," said David E. Tomlinson, Bethlehem Steel’s general manager for safety, health and environment. "We believe the ideas exchanged were instrumental in forming the limits to which Bethlehem has agreed," he said.

Theresa Pierno, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said, "CBF is pleased to see that Bethlehem Steel is committed to these changes and, if fully implemented, the new permit may go down as a significant achievement in our fight against toxic pollution to the Bay. If we’re going to get serious about Bay cleanup, it’s critical that we immediately reduce toxics and other recognized pollutants."

A compliance schedule for the most stringent technological requirements was agreed upon by all of the stakeholders and will be included as part of a consent decree to be issued simultaneously with the permit.

Additonally, in keeping with Governor Glendening’s commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the permit limits are imposed at the end of the discharge pipes and do not include the use of mixing zones (except for nickel, but Bethlehem Steel will be required to eliminate the need for that mixing zone as well).

"These tough new limits in the Bethlehem Steel permit will result in major improvements in water quality for Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay," said Thomas C. Voltaggio, acting mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other important elements of the permit include pollution prevention and nutrient reduction requirements, and a thermal study of the discharge to Old Road Bay.

MDE's primary mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland's air, water, and land resources. The department works to ensure achievement of the state's environmental goals while fostering economic development, safe communities, and environmental education.