Catonsville pumping station getting $2.8M renovation

The severe thunderstorm that hit the metro area on June 29 caused an estimated 75,000 gallons of sewage to spill from the Frederick Road Sewage Pumping Station.

Fortunately, the liquid flowed into an area designed to hold it.

Had the sewage breached the containment area at the facility at 1809 Frederick Road, it would have run into the Patapsco River south of the station and created a dangerous situation for anyone who would have come in contact with the water.

By the middle of January 2013, the chances of an overflow at that station will be smaller.

If all goes according to schedule, construction crews will have completed a $2.8 million renovation that will make monitoring the stations easier so crews can respond more quickly to signs of a problem.

The renovation comes as a result of a $1 billion agreement between Baltimore County and the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2005 to ensure the county became compliant with the Clean Water Act, which regulates pollution discharge into water.

"It's part of the main effort," said David Fidler, a spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works, on the renovation to the Frederick Road station.

"This is a long-range project that has another seven or eight years to go before the county does everything in compliance with the EPA," Fidler said.

Some of the projects within the past two years include an $830,000 renovation on the Oak Forrest Park Pumping Station in Catonsville, a $16 million rehabilitation to the Patapsco Sewage Pumping Station near Annapolis Road in Lansdowne and a $5.9 million replacement of the Dundalk Pumping Station, according to the county's website.

Fidler said the most expensive part of the agreement is renovating each of the 116 pumping stations that hold more than 220 pumps in the county.

"A lot of them are very small, but some of them are buildings," Fidler said of the pumping stations throughout the county.

Under the agreement between the county and federal government, the renovations to the Frederick Road station must be completed by Jan. 15, 2013, Fidler said.

. The Catonsville station currently has only two pumps and the renovation will double the number of pumps to four, Fidler said.

Fidler said inside the two-story pumping station building, nearly everything has been demolished except for the stairwell that will connect the basement, where the wet well will be, to the ground level, where the controls will be.

American Contracting and Environmental Services, the contractor for the project, began the $2.8 million renovation in the spring, Fidler said.

Last week, orange temporary fencing provided a barrier between the sidewalk and the construction site.

At the site, two pipes, one completely exposed and another partially, were seen covered in dirt in the area.

New black pipes with blue valves lay on the ground beside a crater about 12 feet deep at the base of a small brick building.

According to the website of the contractor, the renovation includes the installation of several new components, including sewage pumps, an influent sewage grinder, control systems, flow meters and valves.

In addition to those improvements, the center will also have sluice gates, which enable operators to stop incoming sewage so maintenance to the wet well can be performed, Fidler said.

One of the major enhancements to the Frederick Road station is the ability for the Department of Public Works to remotely monitor the pumping station during severe weather, Fidler said.

"The older stations were part of the problem," he said.

Prior to the renovation, crews knew a greater potential for overflow existed during major storms but needed to visit each site to determine which would fill above capacity, Fidler said.

"With over 100 stations, that's an awful lot of stations to check," Fidler said.

Now electronic alarm systems will alert crews when each station is about to overflow and the crews can determine which alerts are a priority because each system is different.

"There's a certain amount of storage capacity in the lines," Fidler said. "(After the renovation,) crews can look at a station and determine based on the storm when they need to act on it."

The completed renovations to three dozen other major pumping stations around the county paid dividends when the storm that knocked power out to more than 600,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric customers hit at the end of June.

"They had a bunch of stations that went out," Fidler said. "Alarms began to go off and crews knew where to go."

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