A major public works initiative broke ground Thursday. The Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is being called the “lynchpin” in helping Baltimore City fulfill its consent decree requirements to end sewage overflows.
City, county, state, and government officials marked the start of the three-year, $430 million project that’s estimated to eliminate 80 percent of sewage overflows.
The overflow issues are largely due to a pipe misalignment that prevents the complete draining of sewage into the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The misalignment has contributed to a 10-mile sewage backup beneath the City and county.
“When we have a system that is 100+ years old, one, we don’t have complete records, so even though we signed consent decree in 2002, the first thing we have to do is assess system,” said Baltimore Department of Public Works Director Rudy Chow.
The misalignment was discovered during the assessment process sometime after the consent decree was put into place.
“So, this construction is designed to allow the complete draining of the incoming sewage,” Chow said.
The Headworks Project is a series of pumps and storage tanks that will allow the complete draining of the pipe, and prevent sewage overflow and basement back-up.
“Make no mistake about it, the pumps that will be installed here will not only only be important for public health in someones home, but it will also add to making sure we do what’s necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
The project’s estimated completion date is by the end of 2020.
“This is really a Baltimore strategy for solving a very, very stubborn problem. We are committed to replacing the City’s antiquated, and let me repeat, antiquated system of pipes and sewers,” said Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh.
The consent decree signed in 2002 expired on January 1, 2016. Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a modified consent decree on Wednesday that would move the deadline to 2031.