Clean Water Advocates Seek Legal Pressure in Baltimore

July 29, 2016

Not confident that necessary sewage and water repairs will be finished on time, the Blue Water Baltimore filed this week for legal status to help enforce a federal court order that requires Baltimore to make $1.2 billion in repairs to its sewer system over the next 15 years. An agreement reached by local and state agencies last month to stop the chronic sewage leaks into the Patapsco River and other tributaries requires Baltimore to complete key repairs by 2021 and develop a plan for additional sewage projects for the next 15 years. The pact between the city, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment replaces a similar consent decree struck in 2002, which expired six months ago.

Blue Water Baltimore representatives said that while the repairs laid out in the agreement would reduce sewage pollution significantly, the document does not set forth any water-quality goals. "This is a really process-oriented document," Halle Van der Gaag, Blue Water Baltimore's executive director said. "We're really interested in outcomes."

If Blue Water Baltimore is successful and the court agrees to make the group a legal party to the revised agreement, Blue Water could file motions alerting regulators to ongoing sewage pollution even after repairs are made. It also could gain formal opportunities to review and respond to the city's cleanup and repair plans before they are submitted to agencies.

Source: Baltimore Sun