Consent Decree Requires Baltimore City to Commit $1.2 Billion to Sewer Repairs

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-06-01) reported that Baltimore City, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a new agreement requiring the City to commit $1.2 billion to sewer system repairs through 2030. Specified projects have a deadline of 2021. The agreement replaces a previous 2002 consent decree that expired at the beginning of this year. The City spent $867 million on repairs and upgrades under the prior consent decree. From the article:

The new plan requires almost three dozen projects to repair and replace worn and obsolete sections of the century-old system by 2021, including closing two pipes that release waste directly into the Jones Falls during heavy rains.

Regulators estimate that that work would cut sewage leaks by 83 percent.

“This mandate for clean water and public accountability means less sewage in basements, streets and waterways and more progress for the Chesapeake Bay,” said Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s secretary of the environment.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the agreement “ensures the long-term integrity of the city’s sewer infrastructure.” …

Water-quality advocates said they were generally pleased with the plan, but expressed concern that it does not give regulators enough power to ensure that the city meets its deadlines.

“What happens along the way if we see the city is not performing under the consent decree?” asked Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. …

The article also discussed the City’s ongoing challenges with addressing sewage leaks and overflows based on its aging infrastructure and new communication requirements and fines the City could face when sewage spills occur.