What’s happening?

The Maryland Department of the Environment announced on Sunday, March 27 that the non-profit and independent state agency, Maryland Environmental Service, will assume control over Baltimore’s Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant following evidence of improper maintenance and operation, Fern Shen reports for the Baltimore Brew. The plant is the largest in the state and provides treatment to sewage from the city and county, so it can safely return to the river or be used for other purposes.

What prompted this decision? 

The agency released a report last week detailing an inspection that found only two of the sewage-treatment tanks were operating, along with photos of equipment “clogged with solid material and choked with vegetation.” The agency issued an order on Thursday, March 22, mandating the city to restore proper maintenance and operation of the facility, but it failed to comply. 

“The ongoing and escalating problems at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant present an unacceptable threat to the environment and public health,” MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles is quoted saying in a news release.

Previous inspections last year revealed several violations. Baltimore officials, including Mayor Brandon Scott and leaders at the Department of Public Works, have not commented on the matter. 

Anything else I should know? 

Maryland Environmental Service must produce a report on the operation, maintenance, staffing and equipment of the facility by June 6. The directive also stipulates that the city must fund the cost of the takeover.  

You can read more here.