Building and testing aircraft has been a part of Middle River life since 1928 when Glenn L. Martin first set up shop as an aviation pioneer.
Through the years, thousands worked at the Glenn L. Martin Co., which eventually evolved into Lockheed Martin. While the company offered thousands with well-paying jobs and even provided early employees with affordable housing when it constructed Aero Acres, it was not always aware of environmental concerns.
Like many manufacturers in the first half of the 20th century, it was commonplace to bury chemicals and other supplies that could have a negative impact on the environment.
Lockheed Martin is now working to correct the mistakes of the past.
The company began soil remediation on the first of up to six parcels on the 161-acre complex that consists of 12 main buildings, an active industrial area and yard, perimeter parking lots, an athletic field, a concrete- covered vacant lot, a trailer and parts storage lot, and grass-covered green spaces along its perimeter.
"Unfortunately, much of the work done here decades ago was done before there was even such a thing as environmental regulations," Lockheed Martin spokesman Gail Rymer said. "We're taking a proactive approach and want to keep the community informed and involved as much as possible."
The work consists of digging up as much as 2,500 truckloads of contaminated soil throughout the complex. The soil will then be hauled to a licensed disposal facility. The contaminated soil will be replaced by clean soil, and the cleaned areas will be returned to their current conditions — with grass seed planted and gravel or asphalt surfaces re-established. The first section being remediated is adjacent to the ball field and close to Eastern Boulevard.
Lockheed Martin began sampling the soil in the area in 1999 as new developments came into Middle River. Through the years, the company has collected thousands of samples from about 300 soil, 150 groundwater and 80 creek locations. Chemicals such as solvents, petroleum, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls — which were used during former industrial operations — were detected in low levels at the site.
However, chemicals present in the environment at the site do not pose health risks to employees, visitors or residents in the community, Rymer said. Still, Lockheed Martin wants to ensure that remains the case.
"We don't want there to be any risk of future environmental damage," Rymer said.
As part of the cleanup effort, Lockheed Martin entered into the Maryland Department of the Environment's Voluntary Cleanup Program. Established by the state legislature in 1997, the program's goal is to increase the number of sites cleaned by streamlining the cleanup process while ensuring compliance with existing environmental regulations.
Projects range from simple sites with a limited amount of contaminated soil to complex sites with multiple contaminants in soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment, and/or air. As of July, there were 396 sites entered in the program.
"The program is a great way to get property owners involved and makes it easier to get their sites in line with current environmental regulations," MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said.
Wilson Point Community Association President Bob Bendler said Lockheed Martin has been the perfect neighbor through the whole process and appreciates how up front the company has been with his and neighboring organizations.
Bendler said a Lockheed Martin representative would update the community on the cleanup efforts at the next Wilson Point Community Association meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Middle River Volunteer Fire Department.
"Lockheed Martin has been forthright with us the whole time," Bendler said. "It's a pleasure to know they want to keep the community involved in the process. We could not be happier with how they have handled all of this."