City reaches settlement with U.S., state in suit over water pollution; City owes $3.5 million in fines, cleanup projects


The federal and state governments agreed yesterday to a $3.5 million settlement in their lawsuit against Baltimore over water pollution at the city's Ashburton drinking water and Patapsco sewage treatment plants.

U.S. Justice Department officials said a $1 million penalty was levied against the city -- one of the largest ever against a municipality. In addition, the city -- which approved the settlement last month -- has agreed to spend $2.5 million for three environmental projects.

"This settlement shows that we are serious about preventing pollution in the bay," said Lois J. Schiffer, the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources.

In May 1997, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment notified the city that they would seek penalties for alleged excessive discharges. Chlorine and other waste from the Ashburton plant had been discharged into the Gwynns Falls since 1992, the EPA contended. The suit also claimed the Patapsco sewage plant sporadically violated rules since 1993 by releasing chlorine, phosphorus and fecal matter.

In settling the suit, the city has installed a new dechlorination system and removed solids from the Ashburton plant while replacing major parts of the Patapsco plant's sewage treatment system. In addition, the city will undertake three special projects:

Building a $1.3 million facility to capture and treat storm water runoff from the Arundel Village section of Anne Arundel County.

Creating a $600,000 two-pond holding system for the Gwynns Run Pollution Control Projects.

Spending $600,000 to dispose of litter in the Gwynns Falls.

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