The state Board of Public Works approved $23 million in grants yesterday to improve sewage treatment plants, including two operated by Baltimore, as part of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, commonly known as the "flush tax."
The three-member panel, led by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., endorsed a $5 million grant for the city's Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, $10 million for its Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant, and $8 million for Bruswick's plant in Frederick County.
The money, which comes in part from $30 annual fees collected from homeowners across the state, will pay a portion of the cost for installation of equipment to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, which cause low oxygen "dead zones" in the bay.
Baltimore's plants are the state's biggest.
"By funding upgrades for Maryland's two largest wastewater treatment plants, the state is reducing the amount of nutrients being discharged in the bay," Ehrlich said in a written statement. "Projects like this have a lasting impact on this state and the legacy we leave to future generations."
The goal of the program is to help pay for upgrades to the state's 66 largest wastewater treatment plants. The improvements are expected to eventually reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into the bay by 7.5 million pounds a year, and the amount of phosphorus by 260,000 pounds, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. Ehrlich signed the act in 2004. Through Aug. 10, the state had collected about $82 million from homeowners and businesses, according to state figures.
The Board of Public Works has approved $68 million in grants to 18 counties and municipalities. Two plants have been upgraded, for Hurlock and Allegany County, and eight more are under construction - for Crisfield, Salisbury, Easton, Chestertown, Indian Head and Elkton, and Talbot and Queen Anne's counties - according to the MDE.
"No one can doubt the invaluable role the Bay plays in the state," MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick said in a press release. "Every Marylander has a vital interest in this irreplaceable waterway, which is a multi-billion dollar cultural, recreational and economic engine."