The Dundalk Eagle - - EDITORIAL -

River Waste­water Treat­ment Plant. The 10 mile backup was dis­cov­ered in 2010 as a re­sult of this con­sent de­cree.

When the sewer sys­tem is over­loaded, ex­cess is fun­neled into struc­tured over­flow ar­eas and dis­charged into wa­ter­ways, some­thing that en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy groups crit­i­cize.

“The sys­tem is do­ing what it’s de­signed to do, but it’s not as if we’re hit­ting a but­ton to in­ten­tion­ally dump waste into wa­ter­ways,” Kocher said, ex­plain­ing that the sys­tem was built in a time when the en­vi­ron­ment was not as pro­tected. “It takes time. We have to take steps.”

If the over­flow ar­eas are shut off en­tirely, sewage can back up into res­i­dents’ base­ments and bath­tubs, Kocher said.

“It has to go some­where,” he ex­plained.

Due to fi­nan­cial and struc­tural dif­fi­cul­ties, the City missed the con­sent de­cree’s orig­i­nal Jan. 1, 2016, dead­line. Agen­cies later agreed that the goal was un­rea­son­able.

“For the vast ma­jor­ity of the con­sent de­cree, we met the goals,” he said, adding that they dis­cov­ered more prob­lems in the process of ful­fill­ing the orig­i­nal con­sent de­cree.

In ad­di­tion to de­vel­op­ing a com­pre­hen­sive plan, the depart­ment com­pleted 11 sewer main pro­jects, be­gan con­struc­tion on 12 more, and be­gan de­sign­ing an­other 11.

Ad­dress­ing is­sues us­ing green en­ergy

Crit­ics have said that a fix isn’t com­ing fast enough. City of­fi­cials said they are lim­ited by re­sources and are hop­ing to be fis­cally re­spon­si­ble.

“Even the tools we have— like ground sonar—they aren’t per­fect,” Kocher said. “We need peo­ple to ac­tu­ally get into the tun­nels to ex­am­ine the prob­lem.”

Gal­lagher stressed the need to solve large, sys­temic prob­lems with per­ma­nent, re­spon­si­ble so­lu­tions, in­stead of putting bandaids on symp­toms.

“To be fis­cally re­spon­si­ble, it doesn’t make sense to throw money at symp­toms un­til you know what the over­ar­ch­ing prob­lem is,” Gal­lagher said. “Then you can get a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion.”

Con­struct­ing the pro­gram will cost a lot of money, and main­tain­ing the sys­tem will in­crease costs too. It will re­quire more elec­tri­cal en­ergy to pump waste into the treat­ment plant.

To cut costs and to de­velop a more sus­tain­able op­er­a­tion, the plant be­gan us­ing green en­ergy sources.

A field of so­lar pan­els was in­stalled, pro­vid­ing a megawatt of power, which is about eight per­cent of the plant’s to­tal con­sump­tion.

“There’s been a con­certed ef­fort in this ad­min­is­tra­tion with [Pub­lic Works] Sec­re­tary Chow to use sus­tain­ables as much as pos­si­ble,” Kocher said.

Some waste is burned to pro­duce elec­tri­cal en­ergy, pro­duc­ing 20 per­cent of the plant’s needed en­ergy.

“Over a quar­ter of the en­ergy is green en­ergy,” Gal­lagher said.

The plant con­stantly un- der­goes up­grades to en­hance op­er­a­tions and func­tion more ef­fi­ciently.

Point­ing to a model of the treat­ment plant built in De­cem­ber 2001, Kocher said “this is out of date now. The plant un­der­goes one up­grade af­ter an­other.”

The lat­est pro­gram, in ad­di­tion to the so­lar pan­els, is an en­hanced nu­tri­ent re­moval (ENR) pro­gram.

The goal of this pro­gram is to keep nu­tri­ents out of the wa­ter, pre­vent­ing ex­ces­sive amounts of al­gae blooms, which are harm­ful to aquatic life.

“Our num­ber one goal is the en­vi­ron­ment and get­ting it bet­ter,” Gal­lagher said.

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