Maryland to Upgrade Protections for Baltimore's Drinking Water

Fri December 18, 2020 - Northeast Edition
The Avenue News

The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant has received funding for improvements to the electrical system.
The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant has received funding for improvements to the electrical system.

The Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) on Dec. 9 approved funding of more than $100 million toward major projects to protect the supply of drinking water for customers in the Baltimore region.

In addition, the new monies will be used to improve wastewater infrastructure in Baltimore City and Baltimore County to prevent sewage overflows and backups into homes and businesses.

One of the approved projects concerned improvements in the electrical system reliability at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore.

A grant of more than $63 million will help fund the construction of electrical improvements that are essential to support the operation of the Back River plant's headworks project, which will provide wet weather storage to protect treatment processes and relieve restrictions to reduce sewage backups and overflows.

The headworks project is part of Baltimore City's sewer improvements as required by a consent decree initiated by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The BPW approved funding to Baltimore City totaling $31,969,440 – a $30,469,440 Water Quality State Revolving Loan Fund (WQRLF) loan and a $1.5 million grant in the form of forgiveness of a loan from the same fund.

Similarly, Baltimore County will receive a loan of $31,038,750, of which $29,538,750 is a WQRLF loan, along with $1.5 million in loan forgiveness. The funding is shared with the county because it is serviced by the treatment plant.

These monies are in addition to total funding through Maryland's State Revolving Loan Fund loans and grants worth nearly $360 million for the headworks project, which has an estimated cost of $430 million.

The upgrades will be constructed in accordance with coastal and non-coastal resiliency guidelines developed as part of the Coast Smart Program to reduce climate change risks to such projects.

The Maryland BPW also approved funding for a stream restoration project in Harford County and the first contract in a project to resolve climate change-related drainage problems in Crisfield.

The board is composed of Gov. Larry Hogan, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

"These are smart investments to protect public health, continue our climate progress and prevent water pollution in Maryland communities and the Chesapeake Bay," said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles.

"Building underground storage tanks to replace open-air drinking water reservoirs at Druid Lake and Lake Ashburton will secure and protect the largest supplies of drinking water serving the Baltimore region.

"The Back River treatment plant's headworks project is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent sewage in the streets and basements, and we continue to insist on compliance with our clean water laws. We green and grow the state's economy when we invest in environmental infrastructure."