Harbor Point construction begins; residents may view air-monitoring data

Written by on June 11, 2014 in Neighborhood News - No comments
Construction activity begins now at Harbor Point. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

Construction activity begins now at Harbor Point. – Photo by Erik Zygmont

Having secured the MDE and EPA sign-offs on the air-monitoring systems they have put in place, Beatty Development is set to begin work on their Harbor Point development, starting with the 350-foot Exelon Tower.

Marco Greenberg, vice president of Beatty Development, told residents at last week’s Fell’s Point Residents Association meeting that that the process would start this week, with 70-foot piles being delivered to Harbor Point.

The piles are driven into the ground, and will serve as footings for the massive buildings being constructed.

Greenberg said that 24 piles would be driven per day. The developers are using hollow cylindrical piles with a rounded-tip, conical heads. Greenberg said that though these particular piles don’t ring as they are being driven in, the process is still loud.

“From 500 feet away, a thousand feet away, you’re going to hear it,” he said.

Greenberg said that crews are authorized by city ordinance to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days a week, but that he hoped work days would finish a couple hours before 7 p.m.
Three state officials associated with the environmental mitigation aspects of the development attended to answer questions.

Toxicologist Mark Mank of the Maryland Department of the Environment said that stations will be simultaneously monitoring for dust and chromium. While dust can be instantly detected, it takes longer to determine the chromium level of a substance, so the developers will be acting on the assumption that any dust stirred up is contaminated dust, though it may not be.

The development site has four air-monitoring stations set up around its perimeter at the four compass points.

There are also two off-site air monitors—one at Old Town Mall, the other near the National Aquarium. Mank said that the off-site monitors establish a background—what constitutes normalcy in Baltimore City at any given time.

Data from the six monitoring stations—along with other information about the development—is available at a specially-designated website, harborpointbaltimore.info, under the “Health & Safety” tab.

Mank said that the air monitoring equipment is sensitive enough that it has been set off by an idling diesel truck, and by a person sweeping on the site.

“I’m pretty confident the system is working as intended,” he said.

Edward Dexter, a geologist with the MDE, gave residents an overview of the pile installation process. The western portion of the site is a former chromium dump that has been capped with layers of plastic and gravel. Dexter said that for each pile, builders will dig until they hit buried red construction netting, a warning that they are approaching the cap. Dexter showed a slide presentation of the process, and he noted that, beyond the netting, the hole is dug by hand until the plastic cap is reached. Then, the “men in white suits” take over, peeling off two layers of plastic. The excavation is then probed for obstacles before the pile is driven.

Any dirt taken from the hole, Dexter said, will be put in an excavator bucket that is not touching the ground, to be deposited in a “special receptacle.”

“This stuff, they have to treat as contaminated, whether it is or isn’t,” he said.

During the meeting, a researcher from Johns Hopkins also revealed her intentions to simultaneously and independently monitor the air near the project.

by Erik Zygmont

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