– The following article was submitted by Delegates Ryan Nawrocki & Kathy Szeliga (District 7A) and Lauren Arikan (District 7B)-
Last month, a train carrying chemicals, including vinyl chloride, derailed, and hundreds of residents in a small town in Ohio were instructed to evacuate immediately.
To avert a possible explosion, toxic and potentially deadly fumes were released into the air. The ramifications of that disaster are still being felt by residents in and around East Palestine, who have said that they are suffering from health issues due to exposure to the airborne remnants of the chemical toxins.
A week ago, residents of Maryland were informed that the beleaguered Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk was set to accept an initial shipment of 675,000 gallons of toxic waste from the East Palestine, Ohio, disaster cleanup. A memo published by the EPA in February instructed states they may be getting toxic waste in their state.
The plan announced last Friday was to ship toxic wastewater on trains to a facility in Baltimore City that would treat that water.
The treated water would be directly released into the Baltimore City sanitary sewer lines and then end up at the Back River Wastewater Treatment plant. The wastewater would be treated at the plant and released into the Back River and eventually flow into the Bay.
Immediately, we spoke out against the EPA proposal for Maryland to be Ohio’s toxic waste dumping grounds. We contacted various state and federal agencies and federal, state, and local officials to stop this from occurring.
No amount of money or pressure from the federal government could force us to accept and process up to two million gallons of the toxic cleanup waste from the chemical disaster in Ohio here in Maryland.
We announced plans to work with our colleagues in Annapolis to introduce emergency legislation to stop any discharge of Ohio’s treated toxic waste in Maryland.
On Saturday, elected officials in the Baltimore region were briefed by entities including the EPA, MDE, and Clean Harbors (the national private company processing the toxic waste). Members of the U.S. Senate, Congress, the Lt. Governor, representatives from the Governor’s office, members of the General Assembly, City, and County Councils all expressed grave concerns about this proposal.
We know our rights as lawmakers to control our local facilities and our oath to protect our communities and environment.
Yet, the EPA tried to strongarm Baltimore City and County into accepting this shipment.
On Sunday, Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandall shared with us his efforts to pass an emergency County Council resolution to stop the EPA effort.
We joined Delegate Robin Grammer of District 6 in a letter calling on the Baltimore County Council to pass Councilman Crandall’s emergency resolution expressing strong disapproval of Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant being a facility chosen to treat Ohio’s toxic wastewater.
Monday night, Baltimore City released a statement announcing its decision to deny Clean Harbors’ request to discharge the treated wastewater into the City’s sanitary sewer system!
We thank Baltimore City for taking swift action and stopping the toxic waste from being discharged into our state.
The health of the citizens of the Baltimore region and the Chesapeake Bay, should be the priority for all elected officials. After this announcement, Clean Harbors further announced that none of the wastewater from the Ohio disaster would be coming to Baltimore for processing, delivering another victory for those concerned about our communities and the Bay!
Shepherded by Councilman Todd Crandall, the Baltimore County Council unanimously passed a resolution during an Emergency Legislative Session this week. The resolution includes the following information:
1) Expresses its support for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s decision to direct his Department of Public Works to modify the discharge permit for Clean Harbors to deny their request to discharge processed wastewater from the cleanup of the Norfolk Southern Railroad derailment into the City’s wastewater system;
2) Requests that the EPA deny any future authorization that would permit processing of wastewater under similar circumstances through the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant; and
3) Strongly urges Federal, State, City, and County officials to work collaboratively to address and resolve the systemic issues at the City-owned Treatment Plants in the County that provide clean water for the entire region.
The work isn’t over yet. We are working on bipartisan legislation with Democrats in Annapolis to see how this proposal could have been considered and know more about the proposed process of putting foreign wastewater into the City’s sanitary sewer lines that ends up at the Back River Wastewater Treatment plant.
Again, we thank so many of you for your swift and decisive opposition that certainly helped keep toxic water out of our state and the Chesapeake Bay.