City unveils $50 million upgrade to wastewater treatment plant


The upgrade includes a new filtration facility that will reduce water pollutants

FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — A $50 million upgrade at a Frederick wastewater treatment plant is leading the way towards a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

On Monday, Frederick’s Gas House Pike Wastewater Treatment Plant officially completed a four-year upgrade.

“We’ve been at it for a long time trying to get this up and going,” said superintendent of wastewater treatment, Stona Cosner.

In 2015, Maryland raised environmental standards for all treatment plants in an effort to lessen the amount of excess nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater across the state that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay and harms plants and animals.

“We’ve had too much nitrogen and phosphorus and sediment pouring into the bay from all across the 64,000 square mile huge watershed. This facility is really important because it goes farther than other facilities,” explained Maryland Secretary of the Environment, Ben Grumbles.

Cosner explained that excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, can fuel algae that block sunlight from reaching through to marine life.

The state Department of the Environment created a limit of 4 mg/L of total nitrogen. At the time, the Frederick facility averaged about 8 mg/L of total nitrogen.

To slash water pollutants in half, an entirely new facility was constructed in over two years- a denitrification filtration system.

The system adds chemicals to the water, Cosner explains, “That enhances the biology to use those chemicals as food. They use nitrate out of the water as an air source, a chemical air. By doing that, they keep working and by doing that they remove the nitrate and that lowers your total nitrogen level down.”

The system has been operation since May of 2018, Cosner said. On average, the facility now releases about 2.9 mg/L of water pollution, successfully hitting below the state limit.

“We discharge into the Monocacy River so getting those limits right into the river as low as we can means that river is healthier as it travels to the Chesapeake Bay,” Cosner said.

Officials say the City of Frederick was granted a state loan of about $28 million, and provided a $17 million grant to complete the project.

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