It's an odor-eater that will cost Baltimore $1.8 million. But neighbors of the city's Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant probably will think it's well worth the money.
Residents near the Back River plant in eastern Baltimore County have long complained about the stench from the thousands of tons of raw sewage processed there. When Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took office in 1987, he pledged to try to clear the air.
Yesterday, the city's Board of Estimates awarded a $1.8 million contract to contain and clean the foul-smelling air emanating from one part of the plant.
George G. Balog, the city's public works director, said the plan is to build a cap over an area of the treatment plant that clarifies the sewage water, capture the air and pump it through a scrubber where it will be cleaned chemically.
"We've been asking for that to be done for eight years," said Janet Wood, president of the Wells McComas Improvement Association, whose members live within blocks of the Back River plant.
The equipment was suggested by Avendt Group Inc., an Annapolis environmental management consulting firm that was hired by the city to study the problem, Mr. Balog said.
Avendt environmental scientists went to plants in Newport News, Va., Fort Worth, Texas, and Huntington Beach, Calif., to inspect similar odor-eating equipment, said Renee Bench, an environmental scientist for the firm.
"They experienced over 90 percent odor removal," said Mr. Balog.
Residents in the Back River area "are absolutely delighted with this," he said.
The contract for the work was awarded to the Whiting Turning Construction Co. Mr. Balog said the city expects to spend as much as $10 million over five years on the odor problem.
In other city business, the Board of Estimates approved a $189,000 contract with Innes and Willett Advertising Inc. to wage a public relations campaign to promote "urban cleanliness."
The campaign -- whose motto is "It's Your Baltimore Don't Trash It" -- will use television ads, a radio jingle, community volunteer efforts, a robot and corporate sponsors to increase public consciousness about the need for cleanliness.
Although several City Council members questioned spending nearly $200,000 on such a campaign when the city has reduced bulk trash collection to save money, Mr. Schmoke said, "If we don't do it, we're going to spend far more than $189,000 on all this mess.
"I think this is a prudent expenditure," the mayor said.