Toxic wastewater from a February train derailment in Ohio will be treated in Baltimore.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) said it was notified by Norfolk Southern Railway Company that hazardous wastewater from the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio will be treated at Clean Harbors in Baltimore.
Approximately 75,000 gallons of waste will be transported to Baltimore each day by train or truck, “starting on or after April 29,” according to MDE.
The news of toxic waste coming to the region comes a little over a month after lawmakers pushed back on initial plans to both treat and discharge the water in the Baltimore region.
In late March, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott denied Clean Harbors' request to discharge the treated water into the City's wastewater infrastructure.
Following the outcry, Clean Harbors said it would no longer treat the toxic wastewater at its Baltimore facility.
On Tuesday, Clean Harbors told FOX45 News:
We have been working closely with the EPA and Norfolk Southern (NS) as part of their larger response plan to assist the residents of the East Palestine community. That plan includes dealing with wastewater gathered at the derailment site. That wastewater is primarily collected rainwater, which carries relatively low levels of contaminated materials, but still must be removed from the site and addressed. As we said when the original plan was proposed by the EPA and NS, our Baltimore plant is uniquely designed to safely process any organics, even trace amounts, and remove those from the wastewater. Out of respect for Mayor’s Scott and DPW’s ruling back in late March to not discharge any of the treated wastewater to the Baltimore Back River plant or anywhere locally, we did not carry through with that original plan. Now, the wastewater will be shipped in, treated at our plant and shipped back to Ohio for disposal.
Clean Harbors said toxic wastewater has not yet arrived in Baltimore and directed further questions to, “either Norfolk Southern or the EPA who are overseeing this whole process,” a spokesperson said via email.
Because Clean Harbors is a private company, the Maryland Department of the Environment said it does not have regulatory authority over the decision to treat the hazardous waste in Baltimore.
“We have a right to know exactly what’s coming here,” said State Senator Johnny Ray Salling (R, Baltimore County) on Tuesday.
Salling told FOX45 News he learned of the change in plans for toxic waste treatment through social media.
While Clean Harbors said the treated water will be transported back to Ohio for disposal, Salling still expressed concerns about any potential impact to Baltimore County.
“I have concerns that they still might go back on their word and it still might go to our wastewater treatment plant,” said Salling.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D) pointed to the importance of “oversight and protections” to protect his jurisdiction during the transportation of this hazardous waste.
The wastewater must travel through several Maryland jurisdictions, including Baltimore County, to reach the Clean Harbors facility in Baltimore City.
“We have to be very careful and make sure that it is a slow, safe route of transport -- and we don’t have any derailment issues,” Olszewski said Tuesday. “Also that we’re tracking and monitoring to ensure that nothing does go into our wastewater system.”
In a statement Tuesday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s Office said:
While I sympathize with the East Palestine, Ohio, community, the health, and well-being of the residents of the City of Baltimore and the many communities we serve throughout the Baltimore region remains my top priority. The wastewater from East Palestine will only be treated at Clean Harbors' facility in Downtown Baltimore. In no way, shape, or form, will treatment or discharge take place within our wastewater facilities. We have made tremendous strides in safeguarding and purifying our environment and will continue to protect one of the region’s most vital resources- our waterways.