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Maryland orders Baltimore treatment plant to stop unpermitted water pollution

DUNDALK — Maryland environment officials are ordering the state’s largest wastewater treatment plan to stop unpermitted discharges of water pollution.

Under Thursday’s order, the Baltimore City-run Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk has 48 hours to come into compliance after an inspection “revealed the precipitous decline” in the functions of “several critical processes at the plant” since prior inspections, news outlets report.

“The decline in the proper maintenance and operation of the Plant risks catastrophic failures at the Plant that may result in environmental harm as well as adverse public health and comfort effects,” Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles wrote in his order.

Baltimore’s Department of Public Works said it was disappointed “given the collaborative efforts to improve performance” but it would comply with the order.

The plant is supposed to discharge up to 180 million gallons of treated wastewater daily into Back River, but if sewage is only partially treated, contaminated water enters the river.

An inspection this week found numerous maintenance issues, including “unacceptable” algae and other growth on outdoor equipment meant to treat sewage. An inspector found that two of 11 settling tanks for sewage were operating Tuesday, and one required maintenance. Staffers said four functioning tanks are needed to handle the sewage coming into the facility.