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Maryland sues Baltimore over wastewater plant discharges

January 22, 2022 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) — The state of Maryland has sued Baltimore over what is considers excessive pollution discharges from a pair of wastewater treatment plants, saying repeated issues stand to upset efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay over the next few years.

The lawsuit, filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court for the state Department of the Environment, seeks fines of up to $10,000 per day for violations and an injunction to stop the discharges, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Friday’s action was needed to was needed to accelerate the city’s efforts to stop the violations and to restore the bay’s health by 2025, department Secretary Ben Grumbles said.

In a statement, the city’s law department said late Friday it’s aware of the lawsuit, looking into the allegations and seeking an amicable resolution.

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The lawsuit alleges violations of permits by exceeding sewage discharge limits, failing to report sampling results and operating without adequate staff or maintenance.

The plants at issue — Back River and Patapsco -- are owned and operated by the city and process wastewater from toilets and drainpipes in Balitmore County and in the city.

Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Alice Volpitta called the state’s lawsuit good news and a necessary step toward fixing plant problems. She said she expects it will lead to a court-enforced plan on how to address violations.

“I don’t think this is an indication that anything is breaking down or anyone is being uncooperative,” Volpitta said.

Some critics have blamed Maryland regulators for not doing enough to prevent the sewage pollution or for letting it go along for so long. Grumbles has said the state was aware of the problem discharges at the plants well before they became public in August.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation called on the state environment agency to “accept responsibility for ... past failures to adequately inspect and enforce violations.”

“We hope this marks the beginning of a more active approach,” from the agency, Josh Kurtz, the group’s Maryland executive director, said in a statement.