Baltimore pays big to divert water through Sparrows Point
Every month, the City of Baltimore pays $ 120,150 to Sparrows Point owner Tradepoint Atlantic in order to divert 38 million gallons of treated water a day from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant through a pipe owned by the firm, according to Kurt Kocher, public relations coordinator for the department of public works.
This amounts to a cost of over $ 1.4 million per year.
The treatment plant is owned and operated by the City of Baltimore, but it is located in Baltimore County and serves 1.3 million residents within 140 square miles of the plant.
The Department of Public Works is examining cheaper alternatives, but “any alternative would need to pass regulatory muster,” said Jeffrey Raymond, a spokesperson for the department.
“Anything we do regarding discharges must be approved by our regulators and would require a change to our NPDES permit,” he explained.
The goal is to meet regulations set by the NPDES ( National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System).
“Our State NPDES permit requires us to discharge some of the treated water to a location other than Back River,” Raymond said.
Most of the treated water discharged from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is sent to Back River.
The annual contract was last renewed in December 2015, Kocher said.
The city has been paying TPA for their services for about two years, since September 2014, according to Raymond.
“This is not a profit center for TPA,” said Aaron Tomarcio, TPA’s vice president for corporate affairs.
“TPA receives a contracted payment amount to serve as a reimbursement of costs to run the pumps through the discharge point,” said Tomarchio. “At the end of each year, there is a “true up” that occurs to make sure payments cover actual costs.”
Since the 1940’ s, the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant has diverted water through a pipeline owned by Sparrows Point, rebranded as Tradepoint Atlantic in 2016.
Kocher said that the city used to profit off the water, which was bought by the steel mill in Sparrows Point to be used as cooling water.
Now that the steel mill has left, the water is simply discharged to Bear Creek.
“We’re hoping somebody wants to use [the water] in the redevelopment,” said Mike Gallagher, division chief at the treatment plant.
A fact sheet provided by Tomarchio says, “As Sparrows Point looks to redevelop into a global industrial logistics park, the readiness of high quality treated industrial water for potential use in manufacturing operations is a huge asset that we hope to use to attract businesses and jobs back to Sparrows Point.”
Most of the water treated by the treatment plant is discharged into Back River, seen in the distance.