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The Freedom District Wastewater Treatment Plant, located at 1301 Raincliffe Road near Patapsco Valley State Park, discharges treated wastewater into a tributary of the Patapsco River.
The Freedom District Wastewater Treatment Plant, located at 1301 Raincliffe Road near Patapsco Valley State Park, discharges treated wastewater into a tributary of the Patapsco River. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The Maryland Environmental Service has implemented upgrades at the Freedom District Wastewater Treatment Plant in Sykesville that allow it to more effectively filter out pollutants.

The upgrades to the nutrient removal system have been ongoing for over four years, starting in 2014 and coming to completion this past August, according to Craig Renner, managing director of communications for MES.

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Since the upgrades were completed, the wastewater plant will now be able to more efficiently remove pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous from wastewater treated by the plant, located at 1301 Raincliffe Road near Patapsco Valley State Park.

According to Renner, the treated wastewater is discharged into a tributary of the Patapsco River. The upgrades raise the quality of the discharge, helping to improve the water quality of tributaries that eventually reach the bay.

“While some nitrogen and phosphorus are essential to life in the Bay, an overabundance of these nutrients can devastate plants and aquatic wildlife. Excess nutrients in the water disrupt the energy flow in the Bay and can cause ecosystem collapse through a process known as eutrophication,” Renner said in an email. “Eutrophication is the natural aging process by which lakes and other water bodies slowly turn into swamps and bogs. Humans have grossly accelerated this natural process by over fertilizing algae in the Chesapeake, causing devastating effects on the ecosystem and wildlife. These effects are common in the warm summer months when conditions for rapid algae growth are favorable.”

The Freedom District Wastewater Treatment Plant, located at 1301 Raincliffe Road near Patapsco Valley State Park, services the nearby Springfield Hospital Center, the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Firearms Range, and elsewhere in southeastern Carroll County.
The Freedom District Wastewater Treatment Plant, located at 1301 Raincliffe Road near Patapsco Valley State Park, services the nearby Springfield Hospital Center, the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Firearms Range, and elsewhere in southeastern Carroll County. (Maryland Environmental Service)

According to Renner, 66 to 67 major facilities have been targeted to be upgraded with enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) technologies to achieve annual average nutrient goals of wastewater effluent quality of total nitrogen at 3 mg/l and Total Phosphorus (TP) at 0.3 mg/l. Upgrading the 66 to 67 major plants will allow for nutrient reductions of 7.5 million pounds of nitrogen per year and 0.26 million pounds of phosphorus below the year 2000 levels.

The plant services the nearby Springfield Hospital Center, the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Firearms Range, and the Public Safety Education and Training Center, as well as elsewhere in southeastern Carroll County, according to the MES website.

“The main purpose of this project was to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant from a treatment process which only treats to a biological nutrient removal (BNR) level to enhanced nutrient removal (ENR)-level treatment,” Renner said. “ENR-level treatment removes significantly more nitrogen and phosphorus than BNR treatment. By upgrading, pollutants in the discharged water are reduced as much as 90%. Improving the quality of discharge will help improve the overall water quality of downstream tributaries that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Freedom Water Reclamation Facility operated by Maryland Environmental Service in Sykesville is pictured Wednesday, October 9, 2019.
The Freedom Water Reclamation Facility operated by Maryland Environmental Service in Sykesville is pictured Wednesday, October 9, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The Freedom sewer service area covers about 6,755 acres, and serves 8,479 equivalent dwelling units (EDUs) in the Freedom area, including the Town of Sykesville. According to Renner, EDUs help define how much area that a treatment facility can accommodate, based on the facility’s capacity.

The upgrades cost a total of $24.8 million, which was funded by a combination of grants from MDE, partial finding from Carroll County and funding included by Gov. Larry Hogan in Maryland’s five-year Capital Improvement Program budget, according to Renner. According to Ted Zaleski, county director of management and budget, Carroll County contributed $10.5 million to the project.

Even though the plant has been in operation since the 1970s, it is basically a new site, according to Renner.

“There is some structure from the previous facility, but essentially, overall, it is a new facility,” he said.

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