Bear Creek Sediments Site in Baltimore Added to Superfund Cleanup List

Bear Creek Sediments Site in Baltimore Added to Superfund Cleanup List
Bear Creek’s addition to EPA’s National Priorities List elevates clean-up plans

PHILADELPHIA (March 18, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is adding the Bear Creek Sediments Site in Baltimore County, Maryland, to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is the list of hazardous waste sites in the United States eligible for remedial cleanup action financed under the federal Superfund program.

The Bear Creek Sediments Site consists of a minimum of 60 acres of contaminated sediments in the waters of Bear Creek, near its confluence with the Patapsco River along the northwestern shore of the Sparrows Point Peninsula, six miles southeast of downtown Baltimore.

“No community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, play, and go to school. Nearly 2 out of 3 of the sites being proposed or added to the priorities list are in overburdened or underserved communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is building a better America by taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect communities’ health, and return contaminated land to safe and productive reuse for future generations.”

Thousands of contaminated sites, from landfills, processing plants, to manufacturing facilities exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will accelerate EPA’s work to help communities clean up these contaminated sites with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program and reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution. This historic investment strengthens EPA’s ability to tackle threats to human health and the environment, and EPA has already set action in motion to clear the backlog of the 49 contaminated sites which had been awaiting funding to start remedial action.

Bear Creek is a tidal surface water body adjacent to the Sparrows Point Peninsula, which was the site of steelmaking and shipbuilding industries. The Bethlehem Steel Corporation was the primary owner and operator for much of Sparrows Point’s operational history between 1887 and 2013.

More than100 years of steelmaking left behind a legacy of of contamination on both land and in the waters surrounding the peninsula. Hazardous substances from the steelmaking process traveled into Bear Creek due to the steel plant’s wastewater and stormwater discharges and settled into the sediments of the creek.

“This listing empowers us to continue working in partnership with the state of Maryland, and the community to investigate, and to clean up the contamination of the Bear Creek Sediments Site,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “Many Superfund sites are in communities of environmental justice concern. Through the cleanup of these sites, the Superfund program works to ensure that residents do not bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from past industrial, governmental, and commercial operations, and that they have meaningful involvement in the decisions on how to clean up the site.”

People may be exposed to contamination if they use the waters of Bear Creek for swimming, fishing and crabbing. A Water Contact Advisory is in effect until further notice for the freshwater portion of the Patapsco River in Baltimore County. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has issued a fish consumption advisory for 10 species of fish and the blue crab caught in the Patapsco River-Baltimore Harbor Watershed due to the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a class of toxic compounds often formed as waste in industrial processes, which is considered to be a probable human carcinogen.

“We fully support and are partnering closely with EPA on the Superfund NPL listing of Bear Creek,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Together we can make real progress on cleaning up the offshore contamination, and that’s great news for Marylanders.”

The current owners of the former Bethlehem Steel facility have conducted extensive removal of contamination and capping under MDE and EPA oversight to ensure contamination from land sources no longer have the potential to migrate into Bear Creek.

On Sept. 9, 2021, EPA proposed adding the Bear Creek Sediments Site to the NPL by publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register and notified the community through the local media so interested community members could comment on the proposal.

EPA held a 60-day comment period from Sept. 9 – Nov. 8, 2021. The Agency received 13 comments from 11 private citizens and two non-profit organizations, all expressing support for listing the Site on the NPL.

EPA considered those comments in the final decision to list the Bear Creek Sediments Site on the NPL and published a final rule in the Federal Register on March 16 establishing Bear Creek Sediments as a Superfund Site.

More information about the Bear Creek Sediments Site can be found at:

As the next step in the process, EPA will conduct a more comprehensive investigation of the site, to determine the full nature and extent of contamination and examine potential remedies.