Health, Sci-Tech

MDE, Baltimore leadership reach agreement on corrections at Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant

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BALTIMORE, MD—The Maryland Department of the Environment and Baltimore leadership have reached an agreement that charts a course for continued progress at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The revised order, issued by MDE Secretary Horacio Tablada and consented to by Baltimore City, requires the city to cooperate with MES in order to prevent or correct water pollution and ensure the Back River facility is operated in a manner that will protect public health. MDE also issued a revised directive that clarifies that the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) will perform activities and projects necessary to support the city in abating pollution and making necessary improvements at the facility.

Under the consent order, Baltimore City agrees to withdraw its challenge to MDE’s March 24 order and March 27 directive regarding the Back River WWTP.

“The Maryland Department of the Environment is committed to working with MES and Baltimore City leadership to ensure progress in improving the Back River plant’s performance and protecting public health and the environment,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Horacio Tablada. “This agreement between MDE and Baltimore City leadership allows all of us to focus on working together to fix the problems at the Back River facility.”

Under the consent order between MDE and the city, the city agrees to:

  • Allow MES to make repairs and improvements to the Back River plant and to collaborate with MES on the identification and performance of repairs and improvements;
  • Cooperate fully with MES and provide MES’ staff and personnel access to all areas of the plant to implement abatement projects and services as set forth in the revised directive
  • Avail itself of projects and services provided by MES that MES believes are necessary to abate pollution that may be occurring as a result of operations at the plant
  • Comply with a cost reimbursement agreement with MES
  • Participate in weekly meetings with MES and MDE regarding ongoing progress and upcoming activities to return the plant to full compliance
  • Provide MDE with a monthly report for each of the next six months on the city’s progress toward bringing the plant back into full compliance.

The consent order will become effective upon approval by Baltimore City’s Board of Estimates.

The consent order will remain in effect until it is either superseded by a further order, terminated by mutual agreement, or the Back River plant has maintained compliance with its permit limits for a three-month period, including for total nitrogen and total phosphorus for each month in a three consecutive month period and with all annual and seasonal loading limits in the permit, calculated on a pro-rata basis, for the same three-month period.

Due to continued noncompliance, MDE is currently pursuing similar agreements with the city for the Patapsco WWTP to ensure that both facilities have a clear path to achieving compliance with their permit limitations.

Information on the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant – including the consent order and revised directive – is available on MDE’s website.

Photo via Wikipedia / Kristian Bjornard

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