Baltimore DPW defends backwater treatment plant operation, says latest sample wasn’t raw sewage – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – The Baltimore City Department of Public Works on Friday defended its handling of a sewage treatment plant seized by the state after regulators and watchdogs claimed the plant discharged raw sewage into the Back River, saying a recent one near the plant collected sample is not solid waste.

A sample taken by the Maryland Department of the Environment near the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant contained no living organisms, “suggesting no undigested byproducts were present,” the city official said.

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DPW said the sample appeared to be similar to a sample collected March 23 by advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore. Both gave off a strong odor that DPW likened to swamp mud.

The agency claims the “continued characterization of the discharges from the Back River treatment plant as raw sewage is absolutely not factual.”

In March, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles directed the Maryland Environmental Service to take over operations of the facility in response to pollution and other compliance issues at the facility, the largest of its kind in the state.

During an inspection of the facility earlier this month, state officials found that only two of the facility’s 11 primary settling tanks were operational and only one was functioning properly a March 27 directive from the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection.

“Additional data from discharge monitoring reports submitted by Baltimore City indicate monthly violations for total suspended solids, total nitrogen and total phosphorus,” the policy reads.

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Grumbles hired the Maryland Environmental Service to ensure the city met the facility’s discharge permit requirements and stopped all “illegal discharges.”

DPW has claimed that claims the plant would dump raw sewage into the water are false.

Blue Water Baltimore announced Wednesday that it is proceeding with a federal lawsuit against the city after it failed to reach a settlement. The group filed the case last December, alleging that the city violated the federal Clean Water Act at both the Patapsco and Back River treatment plants.

“The time for finger pointing is over. We cannot wait any longer and at this point it is necessary to proceed with our federal enforcement action,” said Alice Volpitta, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper at Blue Water Baltimore. “The latest reports show that pollution is getting worse and endangering worker safety and after four months of negotiations we still do not have the information needed to finalize a settlement agreement. We are pushing our case because the city needs to be held accountable to the public for a transparent resolution.”

After “unusually high levels of fecal bacteria” were found near the Patapsco facility last August, the group claimed that for more than a year there had been “illegal discharges of millions of gallons of partially untreated sewage every day” from both facilities.

Both facilities, owned and operated by Baltimore City, had previously come under fire from the state for unauthorized releases of pollutants, which the state said is undermining efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and other natural resources.

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In January, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sued the city on behalf of MDE in response to “repeated violations” found in multiple inspections. Baltimore DPW defends backwater treatment plant operation, says latest sample wasn’t raw sewage – CBS Baltimore

Jake Nichol

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