DPW Responds to MDE
Friday Oct 8th, 2021
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is committed to being a protector of our environment and the health and vitality of the waterways that serve our communities. Earlier this year, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) inspectors visited the Back River and Patapsco wastewater treatment plants and noted several violations at each. This summer, MDE’s inspectors issued notices of reported violations that included mostly reporting and business process concerns, as well as some violations regarding the Back River’s and Patapsco’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. DPW has corrected the reporting and business process violations, which includes implementing corrective measures regarding the MDE report. Since then, DPW has continuously met and worked closely with MDE to correct any reported violations and developed a strategic plan to correct the few remaining alleged violations. Specifically, DPW corrected 26 of the 30 violations. And DPW has outlined measures and next steps to address the remaining alleged violations, including immediate (i.e., as of now), short-term, and long-term (beyond six months) actions.
“DPW is committed to being good stewards of the environment,” said DPW Director Jason W. Mitchell. “The root causes for the violations have been identified by DPW and will be addressed systematically to ensure we achieve 100% compliance. We look forward to remedying our operational issues and instituting new processes around preventative maintenance to ensure we maintain compliance in the future.”
Over the last two years, both plants have experienced severe shortages (e.g., staffing, equipment purchases, persistent repair, etc.) due to the impact of the 2019 ransomware attack on Baltimore City and the COVID-19 pandemic. These significant events have caused a strain on consistent staffing, training, and availability of parts and equipment for maintenance and repair. These issues have resulted in MDE raising concerns of non-compliance this year. In implementing the strategic plan and control measures to ensure that any recent departure from normal performance levels was temporary, DPW has comprehensively analyzed the root causes and contributing factors to any perceived non-compliance. The methodology utilized to define the scope of the problem included data collection and analysis, staffing and field assessments, automating reporting systems, brainstorming sessions with key personnel, consultations with subject matter experts, and instituting continuous process improvements to implement DPW’s and MDE’s protocols. The results of this assessment have provided DPW a roadmap for establishing a critical plan of action, including utilizing the City’s emergency protocols and procedures to perfect its corrective action. Implementing this strategy will allow DPW to rectify ongoing operational issues and perform the required preventive maintenance for each process area.
“DPW’s strategic plan for the future is proof of the tireless efforts of the City and its partners in collaborating for continuous improvements. Our critical work continues to ensure that our residents and visitors alike can enjoy an environment that is equitable to all communities with ongoing support from our essential partners to build a better Baltimore City,” added Director Mitchell.