Back River Headworks Project to solve sewage backup
Heading into the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant on Eastern Avenue is a ten-mile sewage backup that goes back into the City of Baltimore, near Jones Falls, according to Baltimore’s Department of Public Works (DPW).
A plan to resolve this issue — thereby reducing 80 percent of sewage overflow in Baltimore’s sewer system — is currently in the design stage and will begin construction in mid-2017, according to Kurt Kocher, the public relations coordinator for the city DPW.
The 10 foot pipe is essentially a collection pipe that funnels waste into the plant for treatment. Engineers found that the pipe is displaced, inhibiting a steady flow of sewage and causing a backup.
“Whether through design or age, the hydraulics of the plant is off,” Kocher said.
When the sewage enters the collection pipe, it partially hits a brick wall, he explained.
Baltimore’s sewer system was first built over a hundred years ago. Prior to the system’s existence, citizens would dump waste and sewage into Jones Falls or other streams.
“There wasn’t a lot of environmental consciousness back then,” Kocher said.
Now, the system is in need of repairs. Kocher said that pieces of brick and concrete sometimes fall from the pipes — which he described as “gigantic tunnels.” Most of these pipes are at least 6.5 feet in diameter.
The plan is slightly behind schedule, Kocher said, explaining that they hoped to be in the construction phase by now.
Engineers for the city estimated that the project would cost $350 million. After they sent bids to contractors, they found that it would cost $440 million.
Mike Gallagher, a division chief at the treatment plant who previously worked as a plant engineer, said city engineers are working on what he called “value engineering” to cut the cost.
Gallagher said they want a plan that “will accomplish the basic goals” without spending $100 million more than planned.
The City of Baltimore is required by a legal agreement to complete the project, known as the Back River Headworks Project, by 2021. Entering a consent decree In 2002, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleged that the City of Baltimore was in violation of the Clean Water Act by allowing sewage water to discharge into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, including Back River and the Patapsco River, when heavy rains overloaded the city’s sewer system.
As a result, the EPA and the MDE entered into a consent decree with the City of Baltimore to repair and enhance the aging sewer system, managed in part from the Back
The “golden eggs” at the treatment plant can hold 3 million gallons of sludge. The sludge is treated before being recycled as compost or fertilizer material. Some is burned for electrical energy.
The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is located on Eastern Avenue.