Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles walks away under a cloud – Advice Eating

Ben Grumbles, who is under fire for ignoring mounting pollution problems at the Back River sewage treatment plant, yesterday announced his resignation as Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment.

“I’m glad there’s accountability,” said delegate Robin L. Grammer Jr. (R-Middle River), who had urged Gov. Larry Hogan to remove Grumbles.

The lawmakers’ request followed reports in March of massive discharges of semi-treated sewage from the Baltimore City-operated facility into the Back River.

“Hopefully the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection will return to the straight and narrow lines — something that hasn’t happened in the last few years,” Grammer told The is brewingand noted that Grumbles had admitted he was aware of the high levels of bacteria and other issues at the facility from 2019.

A similar deterioration in water quality standards has afflicted the city’s Patapsco treatment plant on Asiatic Avenue in Fairfield, a problem uncovered by Blue Water Baltimore last summer.

MDE’s own inspection reports detail defective equipment at Back River — plus treatment tanks clogged with vegetation and floating solids — that Grumbles admitted left the facility vulnerable to “catastrophic failures.”

Vegetation growing in a biological reactor at the Back River seen during a state inspection March 22, 2022. BOTTOM: Orange-brown debris suspended in wastewater from the facility’s discharge pipe into the Back River on April 16. (MDE, Mark Reutter)

Back River Glob on stick

Deputy replaces Grumbles

Hogan announced that Horacio Tablada, assistant secretary to Grumbles, will serve as the agency’s new head, and Suzanne Dorsey, assistant secretary, will step up to the position of deputy.

One of Tablada’s top priorities, Grammer said, will be dealing with Back River, the state’s largest treatment facility, which has been placed under state control through the quasi-public Maryland Environmental Service.

New management is tasked with developing a compliance plan for the facility and is expected to issue bi-weekly progress reports beginning June 6.

“There is a clear need to build better relationships with communities. The agency cannot keep environmental groups and the people who live near the facility at bay,” Grammer said.

In a press release, Hogan said Grumbles will be leaving the company on June 1 to become executive director of the Environmental Council of the States.

Under Grumbles’ leadership, “we have made great strides toward meeting our Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, further reducing childhood lead poisoning in our state, and implementing one of the most aggressive and balanced climate programs in the nation,” Hogan said.

“Dramatic Dive”

A top adviser, Harry E. Hunsicker III, resigned as head of water pollution compliance in March.

Hunsicker left the company just before five environmental organizations issued a joint report that said water pollution enforcement had “taken a dramatic nosedive” under the Hogan administration.

The report found that MDE had detected 70% fewer pollution violations than during Martin O’Malley’s tenure, taken 67% fewer enforcement actions, inspected 30% fewer sites and collected 47% fewer fines.

From the 2022 CAP Enforcement Scorecard (chesapeakeaccountability.org)

From the Chesapeake Accountability Project report.

The report faulted the regulatory approach developed by Grumbles, whereby non-compliant state water permit holders could submit material stating corrective action had been taken without apparent verification. Adding to MDE’s problems was its increasing reliance on local jurisdictions to enforce environmental cleanup laws.

Grumbles said the agency has been hampered by a large number of retirements and vacancies, particularly at the Bureau of Drinking Water Safety.

Last December, in response to a federal report documenting the shortage of water inspectors, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh urged Grumbles and Hogan to address the issue “to prevent public health crises like the Flint, Michigan tragedy.” to prevent”.

youngest Brew Stories about Back River and MDE:

Baltimore’s poor management is at the root of newfound sewage discharges into the bay (09/01/21)

The head of the Maryland Water Pollution Control Agency leaves the company after a series of embarrassing incidents (3/11/22)

After reports of dead fish and “black stuff volcanoes” in the Back River, MDE is cracking down on the sewage treatment plant (03/25/22)

What the wastewater from the Back River treatment plant looks like – and smells like (04/19/22).

A COMPLETE INDEX of Brew Coverage of Back River Wastewater, DPW and MDE is here.

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