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Maryland: Treatment plant must stop unpermitted discharges

March 25, 2022 GMT

DUNDALK, Md. (AP) — Maryland environment officials are ordering the state’s largest wastewater treatment plant to stop unpermitted discharges of water pollution.

Under Thursday’s order, Baltimore’s Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk has 48 hours to comply after an inspection “revealed the precipitous decline” in the functions of “several critical processes at the plant” since prior inspections, news outlets report. It comes two months after Maryland sued Baltimore in state court and warned it could join a federal lawsuit over discharges from the Back River and Patapsco wastewater treatment plants.

“The decline in the proper maintenance and operation of the Plant risks catastrophic failures at the Plant that may result in environmental harm as well as adverse public health and comfort effects,” Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles wrote in his order.

Baltimore’s Department of Public Works said it was disappointed “given the collaborative efforts to improve performance,” but it would comply.

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The plant is supposed to discharge up to 180 million gallons of treated wastewater daily, but if sewage is only partially treated, contaminated water enters the river.

An inspection this week found numerous maintenance issues, including “unacceptable” algae and other growth on equipment. An inspector found that two of 11 settling tanks were operating, and one required maintenance. Staffers said four functioning tanks are needed to handle the sewage coming into the facility.