Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant

​​​On March 27, 2022, Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles directed the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to take charge of operations at Baltimore City’s Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

Secretary Grumbles directed MES to oversee the operation, maintenance and improvements of the plant, the largest in the state, to ensure that Baltimore City meets objectives that include protecting public and environmental health. The directive specifies that MES shall take action to ensure that the city operates the plant in compliance with all terms of its discharge permit and ceases all illegal discharges from the Back River WWTP.​

The directive was issued after Baltimore City failed to comply with a previous order from Secretary Grumbles to immediately end illegal discharges of water pollution at the plant and demonstrate that it has come into compliance with all Clean Water Act permit conditions. That order was issued March 24 following a Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) inspection two days ​​earlier that “revealed the precipitous decline of the functioning of several critical processes at the Plant in comparison with prior inspections.” The directive states that MDE “has determined that 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.”​

On June 10, 2022, MDE and Baltimore City leadership reached an agreement that charts a course for continued progress at the Back River WWTP. A revised order, issued by MDE Secretary Horacio Tablada and consented to by Baltimore City, requires the city to cooperate with MES in order to prevent or correct water pollution and ensure the Back River facility is operated in a manner that will protect public health. MDE also issued a revised directive that clarifies that MES will perform activities and projects necessary to support the city in abating pollution and making necessary improvements at the facility.

Due to continued noncompliance, MDE is currently pursuing similar agreements with the city for the Patapsco WWTP to ensure that both facilities have a clear path to achieving compliance with their permit limitations. ​

Earlier in 2022, MDE filed suit against the city seeking civil penalties and an order requiring the city to take all steps necessary for the city’s Back River and Patapsco treatment plants to come into permanent and consistent compliance with environmental law. During MDE inspections last June, September and December at the Back River plant, and as a result of reviewing information and materials submitted by Baltimore City before and after the inspections, MDE observed extensive violations of the plant’s discharge permit, the suit filed in January states. That case is pending.

Progress reports
Sampling results
Recent inspection reports​​

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