Waste­water plant re­ceives $430 mil­lion up­grade

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By MIA MCCASLIN mm­c­caslin@ches­pub.com

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.

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