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EPA issues Baltimore $202 million loan to help repair wastewater system

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore is set to receive a federal loan of about $202 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help the city make system-wide upgrades to its aging wastewater infrastructure.

The loan will help offset about 20 percent of an estimated $942 million cost to the city to make the upgrades, according to a Baltimore Department of Public Works news release Monday.

Baltimore’s wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is in poor condition. City officials have been working to secure the federal loan since 2017, shortly after the issuance of a $1.2 billion consent decree requiring the city to finish key repairs to wastewater and stormwater systems by 2021 and to develop a plan to complete the rest of the work by the end of 2030.

The city’s sewage system is more than 100 years old and was designed to discharge wastewater directly into area waterways when it becomes overloaded, a key reason water quality is poor in the Inner Harbor, Jones and Gwynns falls and the Patapsco and Back rivers. Cracked and broken pipes allow sewage to routinely flow into city waterways. When it rains, stormwater inundates the system, sometimes washing millions of gallons of water contaminated with untreated sewage into waterways.

With the EPA’s loan, Baltimore officials plan to complete 14 projects, including a series of repairs and upgrades across its large wastewater conveyance system, completion of upgrades to the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, and improvements to its stormwater management system, the release states.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has also pledged to finance about $328 million toward similar wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvements, according to the release.

The EPA loan comes from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, which aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects, according to the release.

Baltimore’s wastewater repairs and six other projects nationwide were selected to receive the EPA loan, out of a total of 39 projects invited to apply.

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Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger and Scott Dance contributed to this article.

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