Wastewater plant receives $430 million upgrade
The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant (BRWWTP) has been facing issues with capacity for years.
The city-owned plant, over a century old, was completed in 1911. Years ago, engineers discovered a “hydraulic restriction” which can create up to ten miles of feces backlog in the aging sewage systems.
This constipation causes overflow in some areas of the city, causing sewage to
resurface through pipes on days with heavy rain.
Last May, a solution was proposed, and, on June 28 of 2017, approved. The project, referred to as “Headworks” will cost approximately $430 million. The cost will be shouldered 50/50 between the City and County who both utilize this system.
The plant’s website estimates that 1.3 million residents of 140 square miles of Baltimore City and County utilize this plant’s services. Although the plant is equipped to treat upwards of 400 million gallons per day (MGD), it is capable of handling, on average, around only 180 (MGD).
The “Headworks” solution will be completed by the Department of Public Works and it includes the installation of four 1,000-horsepower hydraulic pumps which will eliminate the issue the restriction has caused as well as an additional four 1,500-horsepower pumps which will be used to ease the load of the other pumps when it comes to dispersing sewage and rainwater.
These pumps will lead directly to two tanks totalling 36 million gallons of waste storage capacity. These storage tanks are designed to hold excess rainwater and sewage during a storm until the storm passes and the fecal matter can be safely transferred to be processed in the treatment plant.
According to DPW, overflowing sewage caused by storms should fall more than 80 percent with the completetion of the project. The project has a hard and fast deadline of 2021, so the upgrade will be complete before the end of December 2020.
BRWWTP’s website details the specifics of how the plant works: “wastewater from both Baltimore City and County enters the Back River plant through two large conduits. At the plant’s Influent Metering Building, flow rates are measured by two 78-inch diameter magnetic flow meters. After treatment, as described in the following paragraphs, approximately forty percent of the final effluent is diverted through two 6-mile long pipelines to Severstal Corporation at Sparrows Point for industrial purposes. The remaining effluent passes through a 1,200-foot long outfall structure where it is gradually aerated and diffused into Back River.”
The plant is maintained twenty four hours a day year round by approximately 300 employees including supervisors, operators, maintenance staff, and laboratory personnel.
For more information on the effect of construction, follow the story as it unfolds with The Dundalk Eagle.
The City of Baltimore’s sewer system is managed in part from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which services over 1.3 million residents within 140 square miles of the plant. The treatment plant is undergoing upgrades to ensure its compliance with the Clean Water Act.