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Commentary Energy & Environment

Opinion: Time for fairness when it comes to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay

The Back River wastewater treatment plant in Baltimore County. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

By Capt. Rob Newberry

The writer is the chair of the Delmarva Fisheries Association.

Two guiding principles in our society are equal treatment under the law and justice delayed is justice denied.

Ongoing Chesapeake Bay clean water efforts show a great disparity on the application of those principles.

Recently a consent decree was reached between the state of Maryland and Valley Proteins, operators of a private waste treatment plant in Linkwood. Elements of the decree include:

• Valley Proteins’ payment of $540,000 in fines as well as additional penalties for water quality discharge violations
• Additional fines if Valley Proteins fails to meet compliance deadlines going forward
• Valley Proteins will pay legal fees and related expenses incurred by those joined in the state legal action

Contrast that with almost no action by regulators on decades-long discharges of untreated wastewater from treatment plants on the Back River and Patapsco River. These discharges have severely impacted water quality in the upper Chesapeake Bay for decades. While the state recently began providing assistance to the City of Baltimore for operating the Back River plant, the timing for long overdue improved operations is still to be determined.

Now more than ever, the Bay is at a tipping point. Steps need to be taken NOW to address the pollution from the Back River and Patapsco wastewater treatment plants.