CBF Statement on Maryland Taking Over Back River Wastewater Plant

As a result of continued and unresolved problems at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore, MDE has directed the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to take charge of operations at the plant. The directive was issued after Baltimore City failed to comply with a previous 48-hour order to end illegal discharges from the plant. MDE Secretary Grumbles said, “The ongoing and escalating problems at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant present an unacceptable threat to the environment and public health.”  

MDE also announced that MES will undertake an assessment of the operational and equipment issues at the plant and release a report by June 6.  

Following the announcement, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland Executive Director Josh Kurtz issued this statement: 

“This action is unprecedented, but needed to correct long-standing pollution problems at the state’s largest wastewater treatment plant. The Maryland Environmental Service has a strong record of maintaining wastewater plants and we expect that experience will be used to address the operational and maintenance issues prevalent throughout the sewage treatment process at the Back River plant.  

“MES’s report on what happened must be fully transparent. Residents are demanding answers as to how this integral plant was able to deteriorate to its current condition and who allowed it to happen. Residents who live near the plant need information about water quality risks. We expect state and city leaders to be clear about the amount of pollution the plant released above its permitted limits and how that pollution will be mitigated to prevent harm to the Chesapeake Bay. There must be a publicly available, long-term plan to ensure the plant is managed properly and that these breakdowns never occur again.  

“Maryland’s Bay cleanup effort depends on significant pollution reductions from wastewater treatment plants and Back River is the largest such plant in the state. Any unpermitted pollution from the plant will set back the state’s overall cleanup.” 


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A.J. Metcalf

Former Maryland Media & Communications Coordinator, CBF

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