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Negotiations underway on city’s use of Sparrows Point wastewater pipes

A federal judge has agreed to allow Baltimore’s treated wastewater to flow through two pipelines at Sparrows Point through the middle of next month.

Judge James K. Bredar on Friday extended a temporary restraining order until Dec. 13 at the request of lawyers on both sides, who say they are “actively engaged” in settling the dispute.

A hearing on the case, scheduled for Wednesday, has been rescheduled for Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court, according to Bredar’s paperless order.

The temporary restraining order allows the city to send up to 40 million gallons per day of treated wastewater to Sparrows Point from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The wastewater, which was once used in the steelmaking process, has flowed to Sparrows Point for at least 70 years.

Sparrows Point LLC, which agreed to continue to let the city keep using the pipelines for a year in September 2012 for $80,000 a month, sought to terminate that agreement two months ago. It argued that the city breached the contract, in part, by not paying on time, to the point where Sparrows Point began sending monthly invoices.

Lawyers for the city countered the contract was never breached and that Sparrows Point was pursuing “extortionate demands.” Without the Sparrows Point pipelines, all effluent from 1.3 million city and county residents would be discharged into the Back River and lead to environmental violations, the city alleged.