Treat­ment plant breaks ground on project to re­duce sewage over­flows

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

Of­fi­cials rep­re­sent­ing both Bal­ti­more County and Bal­ti­more City gath­ered at the Back River Waste­water Treat­ment Plant to cel­e­brate the ground-break­ing of the Head­works Project, a mas­sive and long-awaited ini­tia­tive to re­place Bal­ti­more’s ag­ing sewer sys­tem and re­duce sewage over­flow.

“This is Bal­ti­more’s strat­egy to tackle a very stub­born prob­lem. We’re com­mit­ted to re­plac­ing the city’s an­ti­quated sys­tem of pipes and sew­ers. The Head­works

Project will move Bal­ti­more for­ward,” said Bal­ti­more City Mayor Cather­ine Pugh.

The Head­works Project, at a price tag of $430 mil­lion, is ex­pected to elim­i­nate more than 80% of the vol­ume of sewage over­flow­ing in the city’s over 100-year-old pipes, pre­vent­ing mil­lions of gal­lons of waste from flow­ing into the state’s wa­ter­ways.

The project will aim to elim­i­nate a block­age in the 12-foot by 12-foot sewer pipe lead­ing into the fa­cil­ity by con­struct­ing a well for in­com­ing sewage to drain into and a, in essence, “giant sump pump” meant to im­prove the flow of sewage. When the sys­tem is over­whelmed, ex­cess wa­ter will be moved into hold­ing tanks that can hold over 36 mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter as op­posed to be­ing dumped into over­flow pipes that flow into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and the Jones Fall. The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works says the block­age is the re­sult of mis­aligned pipes, which will be reme­died as part of Head­works Project. In to­tal, eight large pumps will be in­stalled, each boast­ing over 1,000 horse­power. Four will work continuously while the other four will be uti­lized dur­ing crit­i­cal times.

Pugh said this im­prove­ment will not only ben­e­fit the 1.3 mil­lion res­i­dents who are served by the Back River Waste­water Treat­ment Plant, but it will also have long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, such a cleaner wa­ter, and eco­nomic ad­van­tages, such as the cre­ation of new jobs.

“One of the most im­por­tant func­tions of govern­ment is to make sure that we sup­ply clean, safe, wa­ter to the peo­ple of our com­mu­nity and that we pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment,” said U.S. Sen- ator Ben Cardin.

Call­ing the project “an achieve­ment for the en­tire state”, Gov. Larry Ho­gan said his ad­min­is­tra­tion has made the en­vi­ron­ment a pri­or­ity, fun­nel­ing over $3 bil­lion into wide-rang­ing Ch­e­sa­peake Bay cleaning ef­forts over the past 2 and a half years.

He said that the lev­els of ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus, and sed­i­ment in the Bay have al­ready dropped dra­mat­i­cally, which will tar­get the midge in­fes­ta­tion plagu­ing Back River that has been caused by nutri­ent pol­lu­tion.

“Clouds of these pests coat the hulls of boats and nearby trees and build­ings. The midge in­fes­ta­tion is so bad that it’s af­fected mari­nas, out­door seat­ing at restau­rants, and ac­tiv­i­ties at lo­cal se­nior cen­ters,” he said.

The Back River Waste­water Treat­ment plant is lo­cated in Bal­ti­more County, but its 466 acres is owned by Bal­ti­more City. The cost of the Head­works project will be split 50/50 be­tween city and county funds. The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works will use state and fed­eral loan as­sis­tance to fi­nance the im­prove­ments.

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz praised the part­ner­ship be­tween the County and City say­ing that they both have a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain, mod­ern­ize, and up­grade the sewer in­fras­truc­ture, since the over­flows are re­sult­ing in more and more leaks and main breaks due to them “lit­er­ally burst­ing at the seams” with sewage.

“This in­vest­ment we made to­day will pay off for more than 100 years,” said Pugh.

Also in­cluded in the project are new screen­ing and grit re­moval fa­cil­i­ties that will help speed up the treat­ment process while re­duc­ing odors at the plant.

The Head­works Project is ex­pected to be in op­er­a­tion in 2020, with con­struc­tion con­tin­u­ing into 2021.

The Back River Waster­wa­ter Treat­ment Plant.

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz spoke at the Back River Waste­water Treat­ment Plant on Aug. 10.

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