Treatment plant breaks ground on project to reduce sewage overflows
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.