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List of State Officials - Martin O'Malley, Governor; Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor; Shari T. Wilson, MDE Secretary 

Volume IV, Number 3

 February 2010

eMDE is a quarterly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. 

Maryland Waterways Reap Benefits of Technology

By Jay Apperson, Office of Communications

Enforcement and Compliance Report chart 

Enforcement and Compliance Report chart 

Enforcement and Compliance Report chart 

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State-of-the-art technology is coming to sewage treatment plants across Maryland – and it’s already being put to use at facilities throughout Maryland to improve the quality of our waterways.

Plants across the State are moving from the design stage to construction and operation for many sewage plant projects – taking a big step forward in meeting Maryland’s ambitious two-year milestones for restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

Thirteen sewage treatment plants in Maryland have received “ENR” (short for Enhanced Nutrient Removal) upgrades. Thirteen more upgrades are in the construction phase, 25 are under design, and 16 are in planning. Upgrades are planned for the three largest treatment plants, Patapsco, Blue Plains, and Back River.

An ENR upgrade dramatically reduces the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that a plant discharges. Nitrogen is the most serious pollutant in the bay and Maryland waterways. It promotes the growth of algae. Algae that die produce bacteria that consume oxygen needed by aquatic life for survival.

Under the two-year Bay Restoration milestones, Maryland is more than doubling our efforts to reduce nitrogen. The state is working to reduce nutrients from stormwater runoff, agriculture, and air emissions – along with septic systems and sewage treatment plants.

The Bay Restoration Fund is funded by citizens who pay $2.50 a month for public water and sewer service or $30 a year for households with septic systems. The fees from septic users are used to pay for upgrades to those types of systems and for the planting of cover crops. The money collected from wastewater treatment plant customers is used to upgrade sewage plants.

Marylanders who have paid this so-called flush fee are seeing a big return on their investment. Since 2005, the state Board of Public Works has approved about $159 million in Bay Restoration Fund money to allow 44 facilities out of the targeted 67 to move forward with ENR upgrades - and remove upon their completion ton after ton of nitrogen otherwise bound for the Bay. In addition, the Board has approved $11 million for the rehabilitation of 18 collection systems throughout Maryland to prevent sewage overflow at these systems.

An advisory committee steers the Maryland Department of the Environment’s management of the Bay Restoration Fund and is working on recommendations to address a funding shortfall that is expected to reach $660 million by 2018.

Other MDE programs that help finance sewage plant upgrades include the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) Cost-Share Grant Program and the Water Quality Revolving Loan Program.

In August, Governor Martin O’Malley attended the dedication of an upgraded plant in Federalsburg. The $9.8 million project is supported by a $3.3 million Bay Restoration Fund ENR grant, along with a $2.36 million BNR grant and a supplemental grant and loan from the state. The upgraded plant will remove more than 17 tons of nitrogen a year.

Construction for ENR upgrades at sewage plants in Crisfield and Elkton is nearly complete. And work continues to bring upgrades to more plants.

In June, the Board of Public Works approved a $20.1 million BNR grant for the planning, design, and construction of BNR and ENR facilities at the mammoth Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant. In all, the Board approved tens of millions of dollars in spending last year on similar projects. And in January the Board approved a $3.3 million Bay Restoration Fund grant for an ENR upgrade to the Mount Airy Wastewater Treatment Plan in Carroll County, along with a grant increase of up to $8.5 million for the planning, design, and construction of ENR facilities at the Cox Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Anne Arundel County.

A recent event recognized the benefits of such efforts. In December, Deputy Secretary of the Environment Bob Summers, MDE Water Management Administration Director Jay Sakai, and WMA Division Chief Rajiv Chawla attended Frederick County officials’ groundbreaking for the expansion and ENR upgrade of the Ballenger-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant in Frederick. The upgrade is being funded in part by a $30.7 million state BRF grant, along with a $61 million state loan.

Flanking the speakers was a display showing membrane technology at the heart of the planned ENR upgrade. Deputy Secretary Summers told the audience that everyone benefits when levels of government come together for a project that allows for smart growth, even as it plays an important role in the Bay restoration effort. He said that the upgrades will reduce nitrogen discharges by 63 percent and phosphorus discharges by 85 percent.

He added that those reduction rates, if equaled in all areas of pollution, would “give us a Bay that would make Captain John Smith proud.”


©2010 Copyright MDE

Editorial Board
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230