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-Artilce by Devin Crum –

On Thursday, Sept. 24, Sparrows Point Terminal LLC’s vice president of corporate affairs, Aaron Tomarchio, visited the Fort Howard Community Association meeting to give updates on what is happening at Sparrows Point and answer questions that they had. Tomarchio began by touching on the 3,100-acre site’s environmental issues and SPT’s efforts to address them. Since taking over the property about a year ago, the company has been working under agreements with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine what contaminants are present and develop a plan to effectively clean them up. “In order to accomplish the kind of cleanup we need to do, we’re kind of breaking it up parcel by parcel,” Tomarchio explained, noting that SPT has set aside $50 million to help fund the cleanup effort. He pointed out that there are several pump-and-treat stations along Coke Point which were installed to treat groundwater as part of a remedial action imposed on the previous owners, and that those stations continue to run every day. Additionally, Tomarchio explained that the outfalls, which discharge water from the site to the surrounding waterways, are monitored daily and reported monthly to the EPA. In fact, their annual inspection by the EPA had just occurred the week prior to the FHCA meeting, he said. In response to one attendee’s question about water discharge coming from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, Tomarchio explained that the plant’s discharge agreement states it cannot discharge all of its treated wastewater into Back River. That is why the plant also has a water main running five miles down to Sparrows Point to discharge there. When operational, the steel mill used up to 100 million gallons per day of treated effluent from the plant for cooling and other purposes around the factories. And Tomarchio explained that roughly 38 million gallons per day still run through the mains to Sparrows Point. However, the effluent is not currently used for anything at the Point. “Right now, that water is going right through the mains down to the discharge points on the southwest and southeastern portions of the property,” Tomarchio stated. But SPT believes that water has some potential value for a user on the property, such as a future manufacturer. Another concern brought up by community members at the meeting was the rumored possibility of Coke Point being used for a dredge material containment facility (DMCF) as part of the maintenance and deepening of the port. Tomarchio acknowledged that the Maryland Port Administration is interested in using Coke Point for that purpose, but they have not engaged in an agreement to do so. “We are in discussions, and there has to be a clear business case that the Port will need to articulate to us on why it makes sense,” he affirmed. “Right now we’re not interested in putting dredge material there,” he continued, “and I don’t think that site is ready for dredge material,” but that has not been fully explored with the MPA. Tomarchio added that there is currently dredging going on at Sparrows Point’s berths as part of their project to create a deep water turning basin there for ships, but that dredge material is going to the MPA’s Masonville DMCF. “It took 125 years to get Sparrows Point where it was environmentally,” Tomarchio stated. “It’s going to take a bit of time to clean it up, and the project’s build-out itself is going to take some time as well.” Tomarchio commented that SPT is still taking down buildings on the property “almost on a regular basis,” which has been going on for the last two years and will be completed in 10 – 11 months. But they are repurposing some buildings where they can, such as for commercial warehouse space. “We’re preparing those buildings to go back to market and try to find a tennant for warehousing,” he explained, noting that there are nine buildings on the site comprising approximately 1.5 million square feet of commercial warehouse space. While the purpose of the redevelopment effort overall is to take advantage of the two Class 1 rail lines, the two nearby interstates, the deep water port access and the 3,100 acres of industrially-zoned land, there is also a strong focus on jobs. “We think we have a really good plan to [return Sparrows Point to being an employment base],” Tomarchio stated. And while he would not give a number for the amount of jobs they hope to generate, he said they are “very pleased” with the numbers they are seeing thus far and that the project will “far exceed” the 2,500 or so employees the steel mill had when it closed. “This fall will be very active for us,” he said, noting that they hope to soon announce a new tennant as well as some key design aspects. Additionally, Tomarchio said, SPT will present their master plan for the property to the community, revealing the results of their marketing studies at their quarterly open house at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15, to be held in the old Career Development Center on the property.

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