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Barley Snyder Aids in Landmark Agreement to Resolve Wastewater Treatment Plant Violations in Baltimore

Published on

November 3, 2023

For Immediate Release

Columbia, Md. – Barley Snyder played an instrumental role in the settlement by the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) and Blue Water Baltimore with Baltimore City to address state and federal pollution violations that occurred at Maryland’s two largest Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) which are operated by the City.

The settlement represents the largest civil penalty in Maryland for water pollution violations in at least 25 years and one of the largest civil penalties for violating any Maryland environmental law. The violations include the discharge of phosphorus and nitrogen that far exceeded regulatory standards, posing harm to the public and the Chesapeake Bay. Martin R. Siegel, an attorney in the firm’s Environment & Energy Industry Group, served as co-counsel with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance in the representation of Blue Water Baltimore.

The legally binding agreement aims to resolve two lawsuits against Baltimore City concerning violations at the Back River and Patapsco WWTPs. This includes federal litigation brought by Blue Water Baltimore in December 2021 for violations of the federal Clean Water Act, and a state action brought by MDE in January 2022 that Blue Water Baltimore joined in April 2022. Barley Snyder contributed a significant amount of time and legal resources to this case that has achieved the following outcomes: 

  • A legally enforceable consent decree holding the City accountable for past violations 
  • $4.75 million in civil penalties
  • A requirement to replace and repair necessary equipment, submit quarterly progress reports, and hold annual public meetings 
  • The installation of signs and warning lights at the WWTP outfalls in the Patapsco and Back Rivers. These will signal if sewage discharges bypass some or all plants’ treatment processes.
  • Third-party oversight to ensure the City fully complies with the consent decree 
  • Forty percent of funds ($1.9 million) going toward restoration projects in the Back River and Patapsco watersheds in Baltimore City and County 
  • Stipulated penalties if pollution limits are exceeded, failure to meet deadlines are not met, or failure to conduct adequate monitoring or reporting of water quality 

The agreement is expected to go before the City’s Board of Estimates on November 15, 2023 for City ratification and then will be filed with the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

“It was a privilege for us to be involved in this significant action. Our dedicated team has effectively helped Blue Water Baltimore, a grassroots organization that has attentively addressed residents’ water concerns for years,” said Siegel. “This outcome will benefit the community, the environment and anyone using the bay.”

Siegel spent more than two decades as a litigator at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. He is a member of the board of directors at the Chesapeake Legal Alliance in addition to serving in other roles with various environmental organizations.

“This is a huge victory for clean water and for Baltimore residents,” said Alice Volpitta, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper at Blue Water Baltimore. “With this enforcement action, we are exercising our rights under the Clean Water Act to amplify the concerns of our members and giving a voice to the Patapsco and Back Rivers which have been unjustly polluted for far too long. We couldn’t have done this important work without our pro-bono attorneys at Chesapeake Legal Alliance and Barley Snyder.”

In addition to Siegel, the following Barley Snyder attorneys and staff assisted with the case: attorney Erica R. Townes, paralegal Tricia M. Ranck and legal administrative assistant Kelly Gibbs.

Barley Snyder has a Maryland presence with two offices and five attorneys admitted to practice in the state. The firm’s Maryland offices are located at 6700 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 200 in Columbia and 201 International Circle, Suite 230 in Hunt Valley. 

“This case is a prime example demonstrating that Barley Snyder has the resources and breadth to serve clients, not only in Pennsylvania, but well beyond our footprint,” Siegel said.

About Barley Snyder
Barley Snyder is a law firm based in Pennsylvania with more than 130 attorneys practicing from offices located in Lancaster, York, Reading, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Malvern, Hanover, Gettysburg and Schuylkill Haven, Pa., and Hunt Valley and Columbia, Md. The firm serves businesses, individuals and organizations in all major areas of civil law including business, employment, immigration, employee benefits, finance & creditors’ rights, intellectual property, litigation, estate planning and administration, real estate, tax, construction, environment and energy, health care, education, municipal authority, hospitality, senior living, cybersecurity and food and agribusiness. www.barley.com | @BarleySnyder

Press contact: Elise Pini, Senior Marketing Coordinator | epini@barley.com | (717) 553-1059


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