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'It affects all of us': Public meeting held on troubled Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant

Feces in Back River.jpg
Posted at 9:50 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 23:13:15-04

ESSEX, Md. — Three weeks ago, the state took over the troubled Back River Wastewater Treatment plant in Essex.

Tuesday evening, community members gathered for a public meeting to discuss what’s being done to fix the issues there moving forward.

MORE: Community to meet with experts about Back River issues

Since the state takeover, those community members have been hopeful the water quality would improve.

However, their faith is being tested.

The Back River Restoration committee found some solids floating in the water near the plant on Tuesday.

Sewage floating in Back River

Community members are frustrated with the continued water problems.

“We actually get fish kill and polluted water," said community member Melody Arbaugh, who lives directly across from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

RELATED: Back River water quality impacting businesses, conservation efforts

Arbaugh was one of many community members who attended the public meeting in Essex about the troubled facility.

“It affects all of us, from local seafood that we consume, from the fishermen," Arbaugh said. "You’re out at a local restaurant, is it safe to know that it didn’t come out of any of these waters.”

Sewage discharges, broken equipment prompt state takeover of city wastewater treatment plant

Last month, a state inspection found extensive violation at the plant, including maintenance and operational issues, as well as pollutants being discharged into the Back River.

MORE: State takes control over Baltimore City's Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant

The violations and the continuous issues are what led the state to take over the facility.

“When we see what we saw it was disturbing. It was upsetting," said state Senator Johnny Ray Salling, who represents Baltimroe County.

MORE: Baltimore City asks judge to halt State's takeover of Back River Wastewater Plant

Salling said it’s now in the state budget for Back River to provide legislators bi-weekly reports on the changes made to improve the facility.

“We’re going to continue bi-weekly to make sure we get those reports and if anything in any shape or form changes for the worse, the people is going to know," Salling said. "There’s got to be transparency." 

The state currently has a few employees at the Back River site to help get the facility back on track.

The state is also conducting a review on what needs to be done to get the plant into compliance.

That review is expected to be finished by June.

Arbaugh calls what’s happening "an environmental crisis," and she hopes it’s now a top priority for the city and state to fix the problems.

“Which requires immediate oversight to ensure, not telephone calls just to ensure operations, maintenance, all compliances," Arbaugh said. "Everything is in working order and doing what they’re supposed to keep the public and the environment safe.”