Solution to Baltimore sewage backups on track

DPW says it could eliminate 80% of sewage spills

BALTIMORE, Md. -

The Baltimore Department of Public Works says the last two weekends of stormy weather resulted in an about 20 million gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater to be dumped into area waterways.

It is a result of an antiquated, century-old sewage system both Baltimore City and Baltimore County are trying to fix.

At the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant in Essex, an aggressive construction project is on schedule.

"This contract is essentially digging a deep wet well which will allow the flow to come to the plant and not be backed up into the city," said Wastewater Facilities Division Chief Michael Gallagher said.

In lay terms Gallagher says, the city and county are spending 429 million dollars for a catch all.

Crews are building a huge tank to catch the sewage backups that are now being released into the rivers, streams and the Inner Harbor.

It will eventually relieve the flat, century-old pipe that is now prone to storm backups.

Once complete, DPW estimates more than 80 percent of the raw sewage spills will stop, giving area waterways including the harbor a chance to heal.

"I think this could probably be classified as the most proactive, positive water quality environmental situation in terms of the projects that we are doing here," said DPW Spokesperson Kurt Kocher.

But the folks at Blue Water Baltimore are only cautiously optimistic.

They say they are skeptical that this massive public works fix will eliminate more than 80 percent of sewage overflows.

Still, they are anxious to see if their water testing improves once this project comes online.

Sewage, they say, is one of the most damaging pollutants but the only finite way to see if DPW’s solution stops the flow is continued testing of the water.

DPW agrees.

It is already reducing the nitrogen and phosphorus by 95 percent by using its new enhanced nutrient removal, but building this new solution to existing backups can only better help make the bay healthier.

"It's a huge project,” Gallagher said. “It's a very aggressive construction schedule but we're on schedule now to have the facility be operational at the end of 2020."

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