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City agrees to over $1B in sewage repairs

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Posted at 12:30 PM, Jun 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-02 12:30:26-04

Baltimore will see fewer sewage overflows and less sewage in its waterways, if a new agreement between the city, the Maryland Department of the Environment and federal partners is approved in court.

This agreement, a modification of a 2002 consent decree, sets a timeline for $2 billion in improvements and requires improved public notification of sewage overflows.

The new agreement comes in two phases. Under the first phase, an estimated 83 percent of Baltimore’s remaining sewage overflow volume would be eliminated by January 2021.

Related: Baltimore homes flooded with sewage, long term fix still years out

By that time, Baltimore will be required to eliminate a flow restriction at a wastewater treatment plant that causes a sewage backup and leads to intentional sewage overflows at two locations—structured overflows into the Jones Falls would also be eliminated by 2021.

"This mandate for clean water and public accountability means less sewage in basements, streets and waterways and more progress for the Chesapeake Bay," Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles said in a press release. "Upgrading the sewers and greening the City will improve public health and environmental quality, and that's good news for all of us."

Phase I of the project also requires Baltimore to inspect and clean all sewer lines greater than eight inches in diameter every seven years.

After completing Phase I in 2021, Baltimore will monitor rainfall and water flow in its collection system to assess the performance of Phase I and develop a Phase II plan.

Baltimore will have to submit the Phase II plan by December 2022 and complete the projects by December 2030, followed by two years of monitoring.

The modified plan also requires Baltimore to be more transparent about its sewage problems and progress on the projects. Baltimore will be required to hold annual public forums to report progress under the consent decree and to revise a plan to detail how the city will notify the public of unpermitted sewage discharges and overflows.

RelatedReport: Baltimore underreporting sewage overflows into the Jones Falls

Rudy Chow, director of Baltimore’s Department of Public Works, called the modified consent decree a
"good-faith agreement by Baltimore City and its regulators.”

The original consent decree from 2002 was one of the first of its kind in the country. The plan, aimed at the entire sewer system of a major city, was flawed, according to the DPW, because it was one of the first of its kind and had “an unrealistic end date.”

A public information session regard the consent decree is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7, at 7 p.m. at the Maryland Department of the Environment offices at 1800 Washington Blvd.

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