State, City Leaders Celebrate the Launch of the Headworks Project

Press Release

Dignitaries including Gov. Larry Hogan, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Mayor Catherine Pugh today celebrated the start of construction on the long-awaited Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. When it goes into operation by the end of 2020, the $430 million project will eliminate more than 80 percent of the volume of sewage overflowing the City’s aged sanitary sewer system, and keep Baltimore’s homes, streets, streams, and harbor cleaner.

“The Headworks Project will help us reduce sewer overflows and basement backups, better protect public health and the environment, and create good local jobs,” said Mayor Pugh. “The investments we’re making today will pay dividends for the next 100 years.”

Gov. Hogan and Sen. Cardin praised the efforts to get such a massive undertaking planned, engineered, and into construction. The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is using state and federal loan assistance to help finance its aggressive capital improvement program.

The Back River facility is located on 466 acres in Eastern Baltimore County, even though it is owned by the City. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was among the speakers at the groundbreaking event. He praised the spirit of cooperation between the City and County, which split the cost of the Headworks Project.

DPW Director Rudolph S. Chow, P.E., explained the project will eliminate a blockage in the 12-foot by 12-foot sewer pipe leading into the Back River facility. Keys to the project are construction of a well for the incoming sewage to drain into, and a series of powerful pumps that will improve the flow of the sewage – in essence, a giant sump pump.

“We’ll have the Headworks Project in operation by the end of 2020, and I’m looking forward to flipping the switch,” said Mr. Chow.

The project is part of Baltimore’s Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree with the federal and state governments to eliminate overflows from its sanitary sewer system. When the City experiences large storms, the sewers fill with water that seeps in through cracks, and the water can back up through manholes or into basements. Additional pumps will divert this influx of water into two storage tanks with a total capacity of 36 million gallons. After the storm event has passed, the stored influent will be gradually fed back into the normal plant process stream.

The Headworks Project is being constructed using an alternative delivery model called Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR). The CMAR delivery model virtually eliminates cost overruns, with the contractor assuming all risks for bringing the contract in on time and under budget. Clark Construction, of Bethesda, and Ulliman-Schutte, based in Ohio, are the contractors for the Headworks Project. They have been working with DPW since August 2016 to control costs and develop an aggressive construction plan.

The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant operates 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, treating up to 180 million gallons per day of wastewater from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. About 1.3 million residents in a 140 square mile area of Baltimore City and County are served by this facility.

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The Baltimore City Department of Public Works supports the health, environment, and economy of our City and region by cleaning our neighborhoods and waterways and providing its customers with safe drinking water and sustainable energy practices.