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Md., Feds OK Harbor Point project

The proposed $1 billion project at Harbor Point cleared major environmental hurdles Thursday when state and federal agencies approved the developer’s detailed design plan for energy giant Exelon Corp.’s regional headquarters.

Beatty Development Group LLC must still submit and gain approval for a final air pollution prevention plan, stated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment. But the state agency said a plan could win regulatory approval by early January.

The Baltimore-based group’s president, Michael Beatty, did not return a telephone message seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

That air pollution prevention would be the project’s final environmental stumbling block became clear in an Oct. 31 disapproval letter EPA and MDA sent Beatty, stating that preliminary air samples were inadequate and tests were performed in ill-suited locations around the Inner Harbor. Beatty pledged in early November that it would submit a new plan to prevent air pollution.

Beatty did gain EPA and MDE approval for the developer’s response to the agencies’ call that methods be put in place to safeguard soil and groundwater displacement at the Harbor Point site, on the northwest branch of the Patapsco River near the Inner Harbor. The 27-acre site was formerly the location of a chromium processing plant owned by then-AlliedSignal Corp.

Beatty told the agencies that it will drill 1,000 pylons through a protective cap placed by Honeywell International Inc. over toxic hexavalent chromium waste that accumulated when the chemical plant was operating. AlliedSignal acquired Honeywell in 1999 for $15 billion, then changed its own name to the better-known Honeywell.

Beatty said Honeywell devices and pumps will be used “to control the water table which will prevent a general rise in the water table as piles are driven.”

The developer also said it will add a barrier and a structural platform to the area to ensure that the chromium cap at the site will be protected during construction of the 23-story Exelon office tower.

The Beatty Development team has said it must pierce through the cap in order to anchor the Exelon tower and other structures at the site. Construction at Harbor Point is expected to last at least a decade.

Uncertainty regarding approval by the environmental agencies has led the Baltimore City Department of Finance to delay the first part of a $107 million tax increment financing bond sale for the Harbor Point project. The City Council approved the TIF bonds last summer after months of controversy and debate among council members and community residents.

Environment issues have plagued the Harbor Point site for the past quarter century.

Chromium was processed at the site until 1985. Four years later, a consent decree was signed by Allied, EPA and MDE. A $100 million cleanup of the site began in 1990 and included placement of the protective cap over the chromium.