NewsLocal News


Baltimore treatment plant upgraded to reduce spills

Posted at 2:11 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 17:21:39-04

BALTIMORE — A $430 million project investment is estimated to eliminate 80 percent of sewage overflows in Baltimore City.

“If you go into any neighborhood in Baltimore City, you are going to hear from Northwest Baltimore to Southwest Baltimore to East Baltimore to West Baltimore… you are going to hear about sewage overflows,” said Mayor Brandon Scott. “And unfortunately, because my parents live in Northwest Baltimore, I even have to hear it from them."

The problem---antiquated pipes that could not hold back rain water mixing with raw sewage causing spills that make their way to the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay through all of its tributaries.

Mayor Brandon Scott joined Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, U.S. Senators Benjamin Cardin and Christopher Van Hollen, Jr., Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Waterfront Partnership Board Member Michael Hankin, and Department of Public Works (DPW) Acting Director Jason Mitchell to officially cut the ribbon on the Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Headworks Project will help to fulfill Baltimore City’s Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree requirements to address sanitary sewer overflows and keep the streams, Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay cleaner.

This project is estimated to eliminate 80 percent of the volume of sewage overflowing the City’s aged sanitary sewer system. The Headworks Project began operating in late 2020 and construction is scheduled to be completed later this year, at an estimated investment of $430 million.

“Headworks is all about improving the lives of residents across the Baltimore region, while also making our waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, healthier,” said Mayor Scott. “This project also helps fulfill Baltimore’s Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree requirements to address sewage overflows. These are the types of infrastructure investments we need to build a more equitable, sustainable Baltimore for this and future generations.”

To comply with the Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree, the City of Baltimore developed and adopted a comprehensive wet weather management plan, with a primary focus of eliminating SSOs.

As part of that effort, the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant Headworks Project was conceived, designed, constructed, and has now achieved technical compliance.

The primary goal of the Headworks Project was to increase the capacity of the initial stage of the wastewater treatment process. This increased capacity will handle the excess flows that typically come into the plant during heavy rain events.

"We are truly excited about the progress being made here today to tackle pollution, flooding and climate change, while also providing jobs in the Baltimore region," said Rutherford. "We look forward to additional investments in infrastructure that will provide significant benefits for our future here in Maryland."

As part of the Headworks project new piping, new alignments, and a brand new 800 million gallons per day pumping station has been constructed.

Additionally, two 18 million gallons wet weather equalization storage tanks have been installed. These tanks will be able to handle excess flows into the plant, safely, until flows reduce and can be routed through the normal treatment process. Construction is now nearly complete on the long-awaited project.

“Marylanders have a right to clean, safe water. Slashing by 80 percent the sewer overflows in Baltimore that can deposit a variety of unwanted pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Cardin, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “The massive Headworks Project installation at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant results from the combined vision, partnership and dedication of public officials at all levels. It shows what great things can happen for our City when we invest in our critical infrastructure.”

The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, originally constructed in 1907, is owned and operated by the City of Baltimore.

The plant occupies a 466-acre site, operates 24-hours a day, year-around, and treats 180 MGD of wastewater from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. An estimated 1.3 million residents in a 140 square mile area are served by this plant.

“The Chesapeake Bay and its waterways are a national treasure, and we must do all we can to protect it — for this generation and the next,” said Olszewski. “The Back River Headworks project is a much-needed investment in our local infrastructure and will be a win-win-win, protecting our waterways, improving service for residents, and creating a more sustainable future for our region.”

The Headworks Project is being constructed using an alternative delivery model called Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR).

The CMAR delivery model virtually eliminates cost overruns, with the contractor assuming all risks for bringing the contract in on time and budget.

Clark Construction, of Bethesda, and Ulliman-Schutte, based in Ohio, are the CM AT-RISK for the Headworks Project.

They have been working with DPW since August 2016 to control costs and develop an aggressive construction plan.

The Engineer of Record is JMT; with the assistance of other engineering firms such as HDR, they have been working on this project for about 10 years between study, design, and post-award services.

“Although I was not here when this project began, I am truly excited to be here for the grand opening,” said Mitchell, DPW Acting Director. “I come to Baltimore anxious to build a cleaner, greener city with healthy waterways in partnership with the community. This project not only significantly reduces the impact of overflows for our residents, but also helps to keep the precious Chesapeake Bay as a healthy natural resource.”