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Lawmakers raise concerns over East Palestine wastewater coming to Baltimore

Train Derailment Ohio-Railroad Safety
Posted at 5:41 PM, Mar 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-27 18:18:49-04

BALTIMORE — Wastewater from the Norfolk Southern train derailment is heading to Maryland as local leaders race to limit the treatment of the toxic water at two Baltimore facilities.

According to lawmakers we spoke with, the water is likely already on its way to Maryland, it could even be in the state.

The water is expected to arrive at the first facility by Thursday.

Once it gets here it will be treated at Clean Harbors, a facility in South Baltimore.

Once it’s treated it will get tested and be sent to the Back River Treatment facility through the public sewer system.

The idea of potentially harmful chemicals that have already contaminated one community, coming to our own is concerning to lawmakers.

“We don’t want it to come here, and the people in the sixth district do not want it to come here," said Senator Johnny Ray Salling.

Members of the legislature lack confidence in the Back River Treatment facility.

“Back River continues to be in a state of catastrophic failure. As late as this Sunday, employees in the plant reported the same failures we have seen over the last several years," said Delegate Robin Grammer, a Republican representing the area Back River is.

Senator Jill Carter is concerned the water will travel through the public sewer system in Baltimore which is known to leak.

RELATED: Councilman seeks to stop plan to send contaminated water from Ohio train derailment to Baltimore

“There’s also been questions raised about why here, why us, why not another location. I think that’s a question that needs to be answered as well," said Senator Carter.

Currently, lawmakers are trying to figure out a way to stop this from happening.

Their approach is to try and stop the facility from taking the wastewater from the EPA.

Though state lawmakers hold little power, they’re urging the mayor and governor to act.

“If they want to they can take action right now, whether it’s an executive order, whether it’s a modification of permit. whether it’s making calls saying 'hey we have to stop this right now,'" said Del. Grammer.

County councilman Todd Crandell has a challenge for the people bringing the wastewater to the metro.

“When that water comes here, if it comes here that they drink the water coming out of the clean harbors before it comes out of a very leaky sanitation system," said Crandell.

The governor has said in a statement the wastewater plants were selected because they can handle the wastewater.

Mayor Brandon Scott also released a statement:

"Last Friday, I publicly expressed grave concerns with Environmental and Industrial remediation contractor, Clean Harbors’ request to dispose of pretreated wastewater from the Norfolk Southern Railroad derailment into the Baltimore City wastewater collection system.

After legal review, the City’s Law Department has determined that the Department of Public Works has the authority to modify discharge permits in an effort to 'safeguard Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) from interference, pass-through, or contamination of treatment by-products.' As such, I have directed DPW to modify Clean Harbor’s discharge permit to deny their request to discharge processed wastewater from the cleanup of the Norfolk Southern Railroad derailment into the City’s wastewater system after processing at a Clean Harbors facility. Clean Harbors has facilities across the country that may be better positioned to dispose of the treated wastewater, and we urge them to explore those alternatives.

Make no mistake – I stand against any efforts that could comprise the health and safety of our residents, and the environment.

I extend my deepest sympathy to the East Palestine, Ohio community as they grapple with the effects of this devastating derailment on their community, but I must remain steadfast in my commitment to protect our residents – at all costs."

Mayor Brandon Scott

While many local officials are concerned about the impacts this could have on an already polluted river and Chesapeake Bay.

The EPA sent a letter to states saying this water can’t be stopped from being transported because of commerce laws so what can the city and state do?

State lawmakers want to stop Clean Harbors from being permitted to take this water.

Basically, the water can be moved freely on the streets but their hope is to stop it from getting in the door and down the drain.