Water Blog - Blue Water Baltimore In the News 2016

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.



Blue Water Baltimore In the News 2016

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Read news articles about Blue Water Baltimore from media outlets in the Baltimore region and beyond. Get involved in the clean water movement and stay informed on major issues that are making headlines in the news.

News and Press 2016

St. Pius X in Towson to Dedicate Rainwater Garden Nov. 6

“…St. Pius X’s new garden will use the sand, plants and mulch to capture and filter the rainwater as it runs off the church’s parking lot, thereby reducing the amount of pollution entering local streams and reducing problems caused by rushing water, such as erosion, said Lindow….Baltimore-based Blue Water Baltimore, a nonprofit focused on cleaning up the region’s watersheds, is managing the project. St. Pius X is a part of its Blue Water Congregations program, which helps religious groups reduce storm water runoff.” — Baltimore Sun

Blue Water Baltimore Becomes Party to Sewer Overhaul Court Order

“Water quality advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore will have legal standing to help enforce a federal court order that requires the city to repair its sewer system, the organization announced Monday…’Blue Water Baltimore is very pleased with the court’s ruling because we want to help Baltimore fix its failing sewer system,’ executive director Halle Van der Gaag said in a statement. ‘Now, as a party to this case, we hope to see and report to the public on measurable progress to improve water quality in Baltimore’s neighborhood streams, rivers, and harbor. This is a long-term investment for us to tackle the largest source of pollution in Baltimore’s waterways.'” — Baltimore Sun

Local Nonprofit Seeks Chance to Negotiate Fixes for City Sewer System

“‘Chronic sewage leaks are a threat to Baltimore City residents, our waterways and our local economy,’ said Van der Gaag. ‘We absolutely need a citizen voice in this effort, to make this agreement more effective and more protective of Baltimore waters and our public health.’…’This is our chance – all of us who care about clean water, public healthy and swimmable, fishable waterways – to fix our city’s sewer system and protect our future… we look forward to the day when Baltimore’s Harbor and streams – and our residents’ homes – are no longer the dumping ground for raw sewage.” — Fox Baltimore

Blue Water Baltimore Seeking Legal Role in City’s Court-Ordered $1.2B Sewer System Overhaul

“Blue Water Baltimore filed a motion Wednesday in U.S. District Court that, if granted, would give the organization more power to hold city, state, and federal officials accountable to an agreement reached last month to stop the chronic sewage leaks that foul the Patapsco River and other tributaries… Blue Water Baltimore officials said that while the repairs laid out in the agreement would reduce sewage pollution significantly, they are concerned the document does not set forth any water-quality goals. ‘This is a really process-oriented document-, Van der Gaag said. ‘We’re really interested in outcomes.'” — Baltimore Sun

Environmentalists Seek Say in Baltimore Sewer Overhaul

“When city officials and regulators proposed the consent decree modifications in June, Van der Gaag said her group would scrutinize the 91-page agreement to see how enforceable it would be, and whether it would ultimately solve the city’s sewage problems. Public comments are being taken on the agreement until Aug. 8th, and regulators have promised to consider them. But Blue Water Baltimore’s lawyers and environmental experts reviewed the plan, Van der Gaag said, the gaps in it were too great to trust they’d be filled that way….’We want a citizens’ voice. We think this is a real concern for citizens,’ [Van der Gaag] said…’if for some reason the regulators and the city are totally non-responsive, we have status to go back to court.'” — Chesapeake Bay Journal

Out-of-Towners Jump Into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Unaware of ‘Really High’ Fecal Levels

“A video posted to YouTube on July 14 shows some students who were visiting Baltimore from Chicago taking a swim in the Inner Harbor…The nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore regularly tests the water quality of the Inner Harbor and other locations around Baltimore City. The tests measure the concentration of bacteria in the water… Waterkeeper David Flores explained that the suitability of the Harbor’s waters for swimming is below that of other areas in Baltimore…’Basically what we have are really large sewage overflows that happen after storms and persistant sewage leakes that constantly leak into our waterways and make levels of fecal bacteria really high in the Inner Harbor.'” — Fox Baltimore

Green Projects Helping Improve Neighborhoods

“Nine different projects in Maryland, including Blue Water Baltimore, are getting G3 funding to plant 160 new trees and remove more than 8,000 pounds of concrete.” — Public News Service

Trash effort taking its message to Baltimore streets, sidewalks

“Several years ago, the Healthy Harbor Initiative and the watershed group Blue Water Baltimore began working with the city to engage residents in cleaning up their city. Blue Water got a $500,000 grant from the state to put in bioretention basins (large rain gardens), a street mural and new pervious walkways at Library Square, by the Canton branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Linwood Avenue.” — Bay Journal

Sewage-Plagued Homeowners Seek Dollars and Deadlines

“Declaring “we’re going to up the protest ante,” longtime civil rights leader Helena Hicks and other residents of Northwest Baltimore met in a church last night to spell out just what they want from the city to address chronic basement sewage back-ups. After years in which their area was neglected as the city spent $700 million to comply with a 2002 federal consent decree to fix its aging sewer system, residents want some assurances that the renegotiated decree will finally help them…’This is a crisis,’ Flores said. ‘We’re talking about sewage which is not just fecal contamination but also toxic chemicals in peoples’ homes. It’s been going on for years. It’s an issue where people don’t trust that the city’s even listening to them.’..Flores, Hicks and activist Kim Trueheart told Grumbles they want to meet with the state and city and discuss their response to the comments before the court deadline to approve the decree is reached.”  Baltimore Brew

Baltimore Faces Deadline to Remove Acres of Pavement, Reduce Runoff

“Baltimore is racing to remove thousands of acres of pavement, expand street sweeping and create new wetlands to meet a looming federal deadline to cut runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. The advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore is doubling or tripling the size of tree beds and planting hundreds of new saplings. As part of this effort, community leaders also developed a new Druid Heights Peace Park.” — Baltimore Sun

Sewage Still Leaking into Chinquapin Run, Blue Water Says

“More than two months after city officials learned that raw sewage was leaking into Chinquapin Run, sewage is still flowing there this week, according to Blue Water Baltimore. Alice Volpitta, Blue Water’s water quality manager, went Monday to the spot near the Loch Raven Boulevard bridge where a sewer line crosses the stream and saw the tell-tale milky fluid and toilet paper spewing from a crack in the pipe’s concrete casing…But city officials said the leak, which they publicly disclosed in April, was abated on May 26.” — Baltimore Brew

Why Baltimore’s Water Quality Continues to Receive a Failing Grade

“‘This year’s report card was another grade ‘F’ and a lot of tributaries and streams are still highly polluted primarily with sewage pollution,’ said Halle Van der Gaag, the executive director of Blue Water Baltimore…The 100-year-old sewer system is another layer contributing to the problem. ‘We’ve had instances where a toilet might literally be flushing directly into the river, not because anyone intentionally did it, but because it was installed 100 years ago,’…The City is expected to address the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant back-up by 2021. That fix alone is estimated to reduce more than 80 percent of the sewer overflow volume in Baltimore.’There is definitely a reality that fixing that particular problem is going to have a huge impact on reducing sewage pollution in the Jones Falls specifically,’ said Van der Gaag.” — ABC2 News

Baltimore Agrees to $1.2 Billion in Sewer Upgrades by 2030

“The modified consent decree also includes stipulated penalties for sewage overflows, along with penalties for failing to provide appropriate public notification of overflows and for failing to meet key dates, including the January 2021 deadline to eliminate the flow restriction at the Back River facility and the two remaining structured overflows…. Blue Water Baltimore Halle Van der Gaag said in a statement. ‘Sewage pollution is one of the biggest challenges we face in restoring the health of Baltimore’s streams, rivers and the harbor. The human health concerns are serious. Sewage contains not only fecal bacteria, but also industrial waste and pathogens, like hepatitis'” — WBAL Baltimore

Proposal Would Give Baltimore Several More Years To Repair Sewer System

“David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper with Blue Water Baltimore, says that federal and state regulators have not diligently enforced the consent decree to keep the city on track. “The city set out to undertake all of this stuff over 14 years ago, and they didn’t do it,” he says. “The regulators didn’t hold the city accountable, and as early as 2013, they were working to extend the timeline.” — CBS Baltimore

Regulators Offer Baltimore Another 14.5 Years to Fix Sewage Problems

“Federal and Maryland regulators have agreed to give the city of Baltimore another 14 ½ years to fix chronic sewage overflows and leaks that have long rendered its harbor and urban watershed unfit for swimming or other human contact…Halle Van der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, said she was pleased to finally see a new plan for fixing the city’s aged sewer system. Her group had sued unsuccessfully in 2013 to intervene when the city and regulators began closed-door talks about revising the consent decree.The new decree appears to address problems her group has long complained about, Van der Gaag said, including the city’s failure to deal with sewage leaks into the storm drains and its failure to notify the public about large sewage discharges from intentionally unplugged overflow outfalls. But she said the group is still reviewing the decree to see how enforceable it is, and if there are any gaps.” — Bay Journal

Regulators, City Agree to $1.2 Billion in Sewer System Upgrades through 2030

“An agreement filed Wednesday in federal court commits the city to $1.2 billion worth of work over the next 15 years, with a deadline of 2021 for key projects, and other work to be completed by the end of 2030…David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor waterkeeper with Blue Water Baltimore, urged residents who have experienced sewage backups to attend the forum and press regulators for more information on how they will be addressed.’They really deserve a response,’ he said.” — Baltimore Sun

Deadline of Sewage Consent Decree Extended to 2030

“The draft agreement allows the two most notorious sewage outfalls along the Jones Falls – which cumulatively dumped 90 million gallons of rainwater-laced sewage into the Inner Harbor in the last 16 months – to continue in service until July 1, 2022. The new agreement, however, requires a better system of public notification of these overflows, which can affect the health of boaters, fishermen, children and other using the harbor and local streams. Blue Water Baltimore noted those discharges in a statement today regarding the modified decree: ‘While the city has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to try to fix the problem, illegal discharges of sewage from structured and unintentional overflows continue to dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into Baltimore’s waterways each year. Harmful bacteria from sewage overflows makes water unsafe to swim or fish in, and can also make people sick.'”  Baltimore Brew

How Baltimore’s Clean Harbor Mandate Filled People’s Homes With Sewage

“David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper with Blue Water Baltimore, says that federal and state regulators have not diligently enforced the consent decree to keep the city on track. “The city set out to undertake all of this stuff over 14 years ago, and they didn’t do it,” he says. “The regulators didn’t hold the city accountable, and as early as 2013, they were working to extend the timeline.” — The CityLab

Jones Falls Restoration Project Seeks to Restore Trout Habitat, Reduce Runoff

“The Jones Fall restoration could be a prototype for similar efforts to remove paved gullies and stream beds across the region, restoring natural filtration of stormwater runoff and habitat for aquatic creatures…The Jones Falls contains one of Maryland’s most robust populations of brown trout…But the fish are too large to reliably pass through the concrete section, and the pavement also means the water can get too warm for their liking…Blue Water Baltimore estimates a reduction of more than 100 pounds of nitrogen runoff and 30,000 pounds of sediment each year. State natural resource officials who approved a grant for the project said it is a cost-effective way to reduce the amount of pollution entering waterways through runoff.” The Baltimore Sun

City Still Not Reporting Sewage Overflows to the Public, Watchdog Groups Say

“Since December, Baltimore dumped 38 million gallons of sewage into the Jones Falls – and two environmental groups are questioning why the city failed to publicly report over two thirds of it. The Environmental Integrity Project and the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper assert that the Department of Public Works is not following state law that requires sewage pipe releases of more than 10,000 gallons to be reported to the public and press…David Flores, Harbor Waterkeeper for Blue Water Baltimore, added ‘The problem here is not an issue of bean counting, but protecting the public. That includes homeowners who have been suffering from multiple overflows in their homes for years, and boaters and fisherman using the harbor.'” Baltimore Brew

Maryland Fines Baltimore $40,000 for Discharging Grease, Pollutants from Wastewater Treatment Plants

“Maryland environmental regulators fined Baltimore City $40,000 for discharging chunks of grease from the Patapsco Watewater Treatment Plant into the harbor and for other permit violations. The state also said the city’s Back River Watewater Treatment Plant discarged too much phosphorus, a key Chesapeake Bay pollutant, on at least a dozen occasions between 2010 and 2013… One key clean water advocate criticized the fine and the requirements set forth in the enforcement action. David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor waterkeeper, said the consent agreement should set forth a final deadline for addressing the violations and do more to ensure they do not continue. In commnet submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment, Flores and water quality advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore ‘urge the MDE to significantly revise the proposed consent order before it is executed by the State and the City of Baltimore'” The Baltimore Sun

Determined Volunteers Clean Stream, Woods [Towson]

“‘Spring cleaning’ took on a whole new meaning for a determined group of Towson residents who are concerned about the well-being of our community’s green spaces. Blue Water Baltimore sponsored a cleanup of a stretch of stream and woods behind Stoneleigh Elementary School, and adjacent to The Country Club of Maryland, on Sunday, April 24. Katie Dix, of Blue Water Baltimore, Beth Miller, of Green Towson Alliance, and Anneslie resident Sarah Van Tiem coordinated the effort for Project Clean Stream.” The Baltimore Sun

Harbor Posts Failing Grades in Water Quality Report Card Again, Pushing ‘Swimmable’ Goal Further Out of Reach”

“The Inner Harbor and tidal Patapsco River posted failing grades in a water quality report card for a third consecutive year in 2015, casting doubt on a goal to make the waterways safe for swimming and fishing by the end of the decade…Officials said the data provides a detailed picture of the health of the harbor watershed, but it’s not enough to reach any conclusions regarding whether conditions are improving. ‘A ‘D’ range is still not acceptable,’ said David Flores, the Baltimore harbor waterkeeper whose organization, Blue Water Baltimore, gathers the data each year. ‘It’s not where we need to be or want to be in terms of water quality.'” The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Harbor Water Quality Still Failing, but Advocates See Progress

“The 5-year-old campaign to make Baltimore’s harbor swimmable and fishable has yielded only slight improvements in water quality so far, according to a new assessment…The ratings were based on 569 water samples taken throughout 2015 by volunteers at 49 different points around the watershed. The monitoring effort is conducted by the local environmental group, Blue Water Baltimore…Other cleanup efforts are spreading as well. Blue Water Baltimore has received a $600,000 state grant to restore natural stream banks to a concrete-lined stretch of the Jones Falls just north of the city…’What’s exciting about where we are is there is just so much on-the-ground activity happening, so many people engaged,’ said [Halle] Van der Gaag.” Bay Journal

Poor Marks for Waterways in Baltimore County as well as in the City

“For the third consecutive year, the harbor racked up an “F” in the Healthy Harbor Report Card released by the Waterfront Partnership and Blue Water Baltimore. The harbor was given a 51, a grim grade even on a generous curve, while the overall Patapsco River tidal basin came in at 57. Hundreds of water samples taken last year by Blue Water Baltimore volunteers were found to contain high levels of fecal bacteria, which can cause sickness if a person comes in contact with the water, and also too much nitrogen and chlorophyll, which contribute to algae blooms and can cause “dead zones” in waterways.” Baltimore Brew

Harbor Report Card: ‘F’

“Projects like Mr. Trash Wheel, which has prevented some 420 tons of garbage and debris from entering the harbor, expanded street sweeping, the addition of 400 storm screens, and the citywide garbage can program remain relatively new efforts improving the appearance of the Inner Harbor. Nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore has been directing successful tree planting, stream restoration, and pavement reduction efforts as well.”— Baltimore Magazine

Baltimore Harbor Water Quality Again Gets Failing Grade, Casting Cloud Over 2020 Swimmable Goal

“High levels of fecal bacteria, nitrogen pollution and low water clarity were cited as primary causes of the poor score. This is the third consecutive year the harbor has been rated an F following a change in the way the data was collected for the first two years of the Healthy Harbor initiative… In partnership with Blue Water Baltimore, the study tracks the levels of fecal bacteria, algae, total nitrogen and phosphorus, water clarity and dissolved oxygen. Blue Water Baltimore samples every week for six months out of the year starting in the spring, alternating between the streams and the tidal area.”— Baltimore Business Journal.

Environmentalists Question Declining Pollution Enforcement

“Environmentalists are asking Maryland officials to prosecute more polluters after learning the number of cases the state is referring for criminal investigation has dropped by one-third over three years.Representatives from 11 groups including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Blue Water Baltimore and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters sent a letter to Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles urging him “to consider whether existing enforcement policies and resources are sufficient to protect our citizens.”— Baltimore Sun.

Chinquapin Run Sewage Leak Went 23 Days Before City Reported It

“DPW now predicts that by this week more than 10,000 gallons of raw sewage will have poured into Chinquapin Run, which flows into Herring Run and on to Back River and the Chesapeake Bay…David Flores, of Blue Water Baltimore, said the late disclosure via an ‘intentionally vague’ news release was ‘disingenuous.’…He said it is also a sign of the city’s failure to address its aging sewer system decisively. ‘It’s emblematic of a larger problem that we have with leaks making our streams unsafe all over our city,’ Flores said.” — Baltimore Brew.

Baltimore Collects Green Resources Under One Roof

“With not-for-profit enterprises like the Community Greening Resource Network, Blue Water Baltimore, the Baltimore Orchard Project, the Parks and People Foundation and TreeBaltimore already offering educational and other resources to help green the environment, the city decided it would bring those and other agencies under one roof for a month, Andy Cook said. — Baltimore Sun.

Addressing Baltimore’s Sewage Problem

“Blue Water Baltimore supports calls for specific actions to tackle Baltimore’s serious – and long standing – sewage problem…The problem of sewage infrastructure can be fixes – it’s being done in Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta and other cities across the country. Now it’s Baltimore’s turn… ” said Halle Van der Gaag, Blue Water Baltimore’s Executive Director — Baltimore Sun.

7 Big Ideas That May Just Clean Up Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

“Blue Water Baltimore and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake innovative Blue Water Congregations initiative pulls Baltimore’s 900+ faith-based groups into the solution. Planning, design, funding and technical expertise is offered to help congregations finance and build stormwater remediation projects that also reduce their fees…Blue Water Baltimore Executive Director Halle Van der Gaag has been working for years to restore Baltimore’s waterways health. “The momentum is finally building with better and stronger collaboration between DPW, the Waterfront Partnership, environmental groups, and the community. It seems that the right people and expertise are in place, and everyone is committed to doing what it takes to make Baltimore waterways cleaner.” said Van der Gaag.” — Baltimore Fishbowl.

Best Things to Do in Baltimore This Weekend

“After all the eating, drinking, and Light Citying you’ll be doing this weekend, take a few hours to give back to a good cause during Bluewater Baltimore’s spring cleanup. Last year they removed more than 93,000 pounds of trash from city streets and area waterways, and this year, they’re shooting for even bigger numbers. On Saturday, rally some friends for a morning of green-giving around the city. With events in Canton, Harbor East, Highlandtown, Old Goucher, Hampden, Woodberry, and Mondawmin, Gwynns Falls, and many more, you can beautify your own neighborhood or get to know new necks of the woods by sprucing them up, too.” — Baltimore Magazine.

Group Targets Eight Towson-Area Streams for Spring Cleanup

“Thanks to participation by the newly-formed Green Towson Alliance, a regional effort to clean up streams in April will include four times as many cleanup sites in Towson as compared to those targeted in 2015… The alliance is working with Blue Water Baltimore, which is spearheading the clean up effort, called Project Clean Stream, for the Baltimore Region.” — Baltimore Sun.

Waterkeepers: Removal of Waterways From Federal Pollution Rules May Violate Clean Air Act

“The Environmental Protection Agency may have broken federal law by removing dozens of Maryland waterways from its impaired water list, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday…Six area waterkeeping organizations allege the EPA violated the Clean Water Act when officials excused 53 river segments — some in Anne Arundel County — from “total maximum daily load” requirements in 2012, according to the lawsuit filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.” — Capital Gazette

Waterkeepers, Riverkeepers Sue EPA

“Waterkeepers Chesapeake and seven Riverkeeper organizations in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a March 8 release, for “delisting” river segments in Maryland…The removal of the “impaired” designation for the 53 river segments in 17 Maryland counties, including on the Eastern Shore and in Baltimore City, effectively gives the rivers the same pollution diet as the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay, the organizations state.” — My Eastern Shore MD

NPR All Things Considered — 12 Million Gallons of Sewage

“Twelve million gallons. That’s how much sewage Baltimore’s Department of Public Works estimates was dumped into the Inner Harbor last week after heavy rains overwhelmed the city’s dilapidated sewer system.This news comes on the heels of Baltimore missing the January 1 deadline imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of the Environment to eliminate overflows and spills. Halle Van der Gaag, Director of Blue Water Baltimore and Mark Reutter of The Baltimore Brew, join us to discuss the city’s response to this massive discharge, as well as the impact of sewage releases on our trails and waterways, and on public health.” -NPR All Things Considered

What’s Behind the City’s Reluctance to Disclose it’s Sewage Releases?

“…The latest (2014) “Healthy Harbor Report Card” issued by the Waterfront Partnership and Blue Water Baltimore gave the entire Inner Harbor a flunking grade. The report noted that fecal bacteria levels “primarily due to wet-weather sanitary sewer outflows discharging raw sewage into the water” were at levels far higher “than safe for humans to touch” in the waters that lap against the promenade of downtown’s Harborplace.”  Baltimore Brew.

More Than 12 Million Gallons of Untreated Wastewater Released Into Jones Falls Amid Rainfall

“More than 12 million gallons of wastewater from toilets, showers and sink drains across Baltimore were released Wednesday into the Jones Falls to relieve a sewer system overloaded by heavy rain, city officials said Friday…The announcement of the intentional release, one of the largest in years, marks one of a handful of times in recent history city officials have notified the public when heavy rain forced them to discharge wastewater from two pipes that flow directly into the Jones Falls, said David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, who works for the watchdog group Blue Water Baltimore.” Baltimore Sun.

Groups Intend to Sue Chemical Plant Over Alleged Pollution

“Two environmental organizations claim a chemical plant in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay is releasing more than 12 times the permitted levels of nitrogen pollution into the bay, and they intend to sue…Blue Water Baltimore spokesman David Flores says Erachem is limited to releasing 13,800 pounds of nitrogen per year, but has been releasing 170,000 pounds.” — CBS Baltimore.

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