A Bay Journal article (2017-09-20) reported that environmental group Blue Water Baltimore has launched a federal court challenge against a Baltimore City plan to upgrade its aging sewer system. As previously reported in Conduit Street, the City, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a consent decree agreement in 2016 requiring the City to commit $1.2 billion to sewer system repairs through 2030. However, the agreement was criticized by some environmental and affected neighborhood groups. According to the article, the agreement has since been further revised in response to the criticisms, including the addition of reporting, transparency, and sewage backup mitigation requirements. From the article:
Both [EPA] and [MDE], which have been overseeing the city’s sewer overhaul, urged the court to accept the latest plan. Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s environment secretary, called it “a better contract for clean water and environmental justice.” The state also pledged to provide $300 million in low-interest loans to the city and suburban Baltimore County to help cover costs to repair the sewer system that handles waste from both jurisdictions. …
On Wednesday, Blue Water Baltimore took its objections to court. Previously granted the right to intervene in the case, the group filed a motion in federal court contending that despite some improvements, the agreement has been seriously compromised by a previously undisclosed provision. The provision prohibits the state or the EPA from using the stream monitoring data to order additional repairs by the city if the planned upgrades are not having the promised result of reducing bacteria levels and making the water safer for human contact.
The environmental group filed a motion Wednesday in opposition to the consent decree, asking the court to deny approval unless that provision is removed.