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Eastern Baltimore County may get its third Superfund site.

Bear Creek at Sparrows Point. Credit: Nikki Davis
Bear Creek at Sparrows Point Credit: Nikki Davis

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering adding a portion of Bear Creek in Eastern Baltimore County to its list of Superfund cleanup sites. It’s tied to the years-long cleanup of the old Bethlehem Steel site at Sparrows Point.

The state is spearheading the cleanup of the property while the federal government is charged with cleaning up the water around it, which includes Bear Creek.

At a recent Baltimore County Council meeting, David Lykens, the director of the county’s environmental protection and sustainability department, said the proposed cleanup will take a while.

“That will take many years to come to fruition and see where exactly that’s going to be and what they’re actually going to do about it,” Lykens told the council.

Doug Myers, Maryland senior scientist for Chesapeake Bay Foundation said in a statement, “We urge EPA to conduct a swift and thorough investigation leading to a remedy that will reverse this toxic legacy.”

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said while the county is not leading the cleanup of Bear Creek, they want to be at the table.

“We want to provide whatever information and support we can to ensure that there’s a full investigation,” Olszewski said. “There’s a long history there. It’s personal for me having grown up there. It’s personal for many folks who live over in Eastern Baltimore County.”

According to the EPA, there is a minimum of 60 acres of contaminated sediments in Bear Creek near where it flows into the Patapsco River. It was contaminated by decades of steel making at Sparrows Point. The EPA said people who use Bear Creek are exposed to the contamination.

The 3,300-acre former site of Bethlehem Steel is being developed by Tradepoint Atlantic. Since 2014, Tradepoint has been transforming Sparrows Point from the contaminated site of a crumbling, abandoned steel plant to a global logistics center that includes distribution warehouses for FedEx, Amazon and Under Armour.

The EPA is taking comment through November 8 on whether to add Bear Creek to the Superfund National Priorities List. It is now the third site in Eastern Baltimore County that is either being considered for the list or is on it. The other two are the Sauer Dump in Dundalk and the 68th Street Dump in Rosedale.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2