The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is issuing the following statement in response to the move by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to file legal action today against two Baltimore area wastewater treatment plants.
In August, CBF urged Baltimore officials to quickly correct the litany of problems discovered at the Back River and Patapsco wastewater treatment plants—the two largest in the state. The plants were releasing excessive bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended solids into Baltimore Harbor and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay due to operational, maintenance, and staffing failures.
The problems were only publicly revealed after the nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore urged Maryland Department of the Environment to inspect the plants after the nonprofit’s water quality tests near the plants showed high pollution levels. MDE’s subsequent inspections revealed the extent of the ongoing pollution problems at the plant.
For years, MDE’s inspection and enforcement actions have significantly declined—a trend that came under much-needed scrutiny by the Maryland Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee earlier this week.
CBF Maryland Executive Director Josh Kurtz issued this statement in response to the new legal actions:
“It’s unfortunate that this needs to happen. The Baltimore plants are the two largest in the state and their operational failures didn’t begin all at once. MDE must accept responsibility for the agency’s past failures to adequately inspect and enforce violations at these and other major pollution permit holders in a timely manner. Resources that could have been used to incrementally fix problems at the plants may now be used to defend the city against the state.
“We hope this marks the beginning of a more active approach from MDE. The best way to ensure other wastewater plants, industrial polluters, and large agricultural operations aren’t violating their pollution limits is to enforce the law. Fixing the problems at the Baltimore plants is an initial step. Moving forward, MDE must drastically increase inspections and enforcement as well as work judiciously to update expired ‘zombie’ pollution permits at facilities throughout the state. Doing so will protect the health of residents and secure our progress toward Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.”