Federal Judge Upholds Baltimore City Sewer Consent Decree

A Bay Journal article (2017-10-14) reported that the U.S. District Court has upheld a Baltimore City agreement that gives the City until 2030 to address its sewage overflow and backup problems.  According to the article, Judge J. Frederick Motz approved a new consent decree and rejected arguments from the environmental group Blue Water Baltimore that the agreement should be further strengthened. The new agreement is a modification of a 2002 agreement between the City and federal and state regulators that set a January 2016 deadline to address the problems. The article noted that Baltimore City has spent nearly $1 billion to repair its sewage infrastructure but was unable to meet the 2016 goals.

 

The revised agreement requires the City to fund a series of upgrade projects to reduce overflows by 80 percent after four years, with further improvements continuing until 2030. The estimated cost of the work is $1.6 billion, with most of that cost falling on the City. From the article:

Noting the failure of previous repairs to end overflows, [Blue Water Baltimore] wanted an additional provision added that would have required that the city to adjust its repair plans and do more if stream and harbor monitoring doesn’t show sufficient water-quality improvements.

Lawyers representing federal and city officials urged the judge to disregard the environmental group’s complaint, saying that the sewer repairs alone cannot be expected to make Baltimore’s water safe. Other sources of contamination that impact waterways, including those caused by illegal connections of sewer lines to storm drains, are to be dealt with separately in the city’s stormwater permits, they said.

Angela Haren, Blue Water’s advocacy director and the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, said the group is encouraged that the Maryland Department of the Environment and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency both agree that “all useful data,” including water-quality monitoring, should be considered when determining whether the city’s sewer repairs have succeeded.

Useful Links

Blue Water Baltimore Website

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Baltimore City Sewer Consent Decree