By Peter Chawaga
One of the biggest cities in the country is now prepared to settle a massive bill and make critical improvements following years-long issues at its wastewater treatment operations.
“Baltimore city has agreed to pay a penalty of up to $4.75 million to settle lawsuits filed by Maryland and an environmental watchdog group over multiple pollution and other violations at its two municipal water treatment plants,” the Bay Journal reported. “In addition to paying the penalty, Baltimore’s Department of Public Works would be required to fix and replace broken and malfunctioning equipment, clean and maintain clogged treatment systems and rehabilitate or upgrade some others. It must also submit a plan for recruiting, training and retaining sufficient staff to run the plants properly.”
The multimillion-dollar fine is part of a consent decree negotiated between Baltimore officials and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), along with an environmental nonprofit. Issues with the wastewater treatment plants go back years, with state inspectors uncovering an average of 100 million gallons of partially treated effluent being dumped per day in 2021. In 2022, as state regulators took charge of one city wastewater plant, issues were found at another.
But now the range of penalties being instituted is driving optimism that Baltimore’s wastewater system will soon see marked improvement.
“Not only does it assure that some of the penalty will go back into improving conditions in the affected communities … but it also requires transparency and independent oversight of the required rehabilitation at both plants,” according to Bay Journal. “MDE’s statement says inspectors are seeing improvements both in operations and in control of nutrient pollution.”
And that’s good news as one of the nation’s most iconic waterways, which lies downstream from Baltimore’s wastewater plants, likely could not take many more sewage spills.
“The Chesapeake Bay Program in recent years reported that pollution coming from Maryland’s wastewater treatment facilities could jeopardize efforts to reduce sediments and nutrient levels to meet goals set for the Chesapeake Bay by 2025,” per The Baltimore Banner.
To read more about the rules that govern city wastewater treatment operations, visit Water Online’s Wastewater Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.