Maryland environmental regulators fined Baltimore City $40,000 for discharging chunks of grease from the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant into the harbor and for other permit violations.

The state also said the city's Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant discharged too much phosphorus, a key Chesapeake Bay pollutant, on at least a dozen occasions between 2010 and 2013. While that plant is operating close to its designed capacity, city officials have not yet created a plan to address it, as they are required to do, regulators say.

Advertisement

The city's Board of Estimates is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to authorize a consent agreement settling the violations. Under the agreement, the city could face hundreds or thousands of dollars in additional fines for failing to fix problems.

The enforcement comes as the state works to meet standards in a "pollution diet" for the Chesapeake Bay established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010. The plan seeks to clean up the bay by 2025, aiming to reach 60 percent of related goals by 2017.

Sewage leaks and discharge from wastewater treatment plants across the state are a significant source of pollutants harming the bay. Nitrogen and phosphorus contained in human and animal waste fertilize algae blooms that can lead to large fish kills.

One key clean water advocate criticized the fine and the requirements set forth in the enforcement action. David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor waterkeeper, said the consent agreement should set forth a final deadline for addressing the violations and do more to ensure that they do not continue.

In comments submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment, Flores and water quality advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore "urge the MDE to significantly revise the proposed consent order before it is executed by the State and the City of Baltimore."

Flores also expressed concern that action was not taken sooner despite evidence of years of violations.

The discharge violations represent "a very small percentage" of thousands of samples collected over the years, said Jeffrey Raymond, a spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works.

"Our plant operators take pride in the fact that the effluent that leaves those treatment plants is cleaner than the water into which it is discharged," he said.

MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said the department hopes to finalize an agreement "that addresses numerous violations at the plant and advances environmental progress."

Engineers are currently designing a project to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus the Back River plant releases by 83 percent. State officials approved $109 million in spending on the project last month.

twitter.com/ssdance

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement