Beatty Development Group LLC could puncture the 5-foot-thick cap preventing hexavalent chromium leakage at the Harbor Point site by mid-May, according to the state.
Horacio Tablada, director of the Land Management Administration in the Maryland Department of the Environment, said regulators are currently monitoring chromium particulate levels in the area and that the last schedule he saw indicated the company could begin driving piles into the cap next month.
“That particulate numbers that we will be using [to determine safety], if those numbers start going high during the construction, then they will have to take measures to lower the number by wetting the site or looking to see if there’s something causing the particulate to go higher,” Tablada said.
The cap must be punctured by more than 1,000 piles so the 23-story regional headquarters for energy company Exelon Corp. can be built as part of the $1 billion mixed-use project. There is some concern that puncturing the cap could release chromium particulates, which are toxic at excessive levels.
In March the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state approved the air construction monitoring plan. Approval of the plan meant that some preliminary construction ahead of piercing the cap could begin.
But the cap itself cannot be penetrated until a more detailed review of chromium background levels is finished. Tablada said state and federal environmental agencies expect to finish that review by the end of this week.
“Always our standard has been, ‘Yes you can build something like this here. But it should be done in a safe manner protecting the citizens of the state without exacerbating the current conditions,’” he said.
Councilman James Kraft, who represents the area where the project will be built, said representatives from the state and federal environmental agencies have eased residents’ concerns. He said he doesn’t believe there will be any problems.
“I want it to be done in an environmentally safe way, but I want this project up,” Kraft said. “I want this project up operating. … This area needs to continue to grow and come alive for the whole city. It doesn’t do us any good having that area just sit stagnant.”
A spokesman for the developer could not be reached for comment.
The site has been exposed to chromium dating back to the mid-1800s when the Baltimore Chrome Works Facility began operations. Chromium ore was processed at the site until 1985.
Former property owner Allied Signal, which later became Honeywell, entered into a consent decree with the EPA to establish the impact of chromium release on the property and clean it up.
The cap aimed at preventing chromium leakage was completed in 1999.