Bethlehem Steel Corporation (BSC), operated Sparrows Point steel
facility on the banks of the Patapsco River in Baltimore County,
Maryland, for more than 80 years. In the 1990s, EPA and the
Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) sued BSC for
numerous hazardous waste violations. The case was settled in
1997 when the parties signed a consent decree that required
BSC and any subsequent owner to correct the violations, perform
the necessary studies to fully evaluate the site, and clean up the on-and off-site pollution. Since then, very little cleanup has occurred.
Update: Sparrows Point
With Amy McDonnell
CBF is involved in two legal matters concerning the
Sparrows Point steel facility on the Patapsco River in
Baltimore County, Maryland. A joint hearing was held
addressing these issues in March 2011. On July 5,
2011, a federal judge issued decisions in both cases.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation et al
v. Severstal Sparrows Point LLC et al
Q. During the summer of 2009, CBF, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper (now Blue
Water Baltimore), and several local residents
concerned with the threat to area water
quality and human health sent a notice of
intent to sue the past and present owners of
the steel facility and the agencies charged
with its oversight. In July 2010, after efforts
to resolve the concerns failed, a lawsuit was
filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. What was the intent of the
suit? And what was the outcome?
A. By filing the suit, CBF and the other parties were seeking a court order requiring
Severstal (then owner of Sparrows Point) to
fully investigate contamination leaving the
facility, take emergency measures to prevent
pollution from migrating offsite, and, if necessary, remove and remediate any hazards.
The judge ruled that CBF could move forward with its claims regarding Severstal’s
failure to obtain a permit for hazardous
waste management units and violations of
the state erosion and sediment control laws.
Other claims were dismissed by the judge
who stated they were being diligently prosecuted by the government.
Severstal Sparrow Point LLC v. EPA
Q. Severstal filed suit against EPA and MDE
in July 2010, disputing its obligation to
investigate contamination in the waters surrounding its steel mill, including Bear Creek
where people fish and swim. Because they
hold a substantial interest in this case, CBF
and other parties filed a motion to intervene,
or participate on behalf of EPA, in October
NIKKI DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHY
of 2010. Were CBF and the other parties
given permission to join the lawsuit? Will
Severstal be required to investigate the
extent of any off-site contamination?
A. In the EPA suit, the judge ruled that CBF
and the others could intervene in that matter to protect their interests. Unfortunately,
the judge ruled that Severstal was not liable
for releases of hazardous waste that
occurred prior to April 23, 2003—the date
the company purchased the facility. The
judge did rule that, per the consent decree,
Severstal is responsible for conducting a
site-wide investigation including offshore
sampling. The parties are to meet to determine the scope of that investigation and
report back to the judge. Stay tuned…
CBF’s Litigation Department uses carefully chosen legal action as another tool for advancing
the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
uFor more information, visit cbf.org/litigation.