Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Bay Journal, $13 million wastewater grant to private company spurs debate in Maryland

Maryland regulators want to give nearly $13 million to a private company to help it clean up nutrient pollution from an Eastern Shore chicken rendering plant it owns that has a history of discharge violations.

Officials with the Maryland Department of the Environment say the grant to Valley Proteins, Inc., will help it achieve an extraordinary level of wastewater treatment for such a facility and improve the health of the Transquaking River, a 23-mile-long Chesapeake Bay tributary into which the plant discharges. The river has been classified since 1996 as impaired by nutrients.

But environmentalists and some Democratic lawmakers object to the state grant, saying that a for-profit firm shouldn’t get public money to clean up its act. State Sen. Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat representing Anne Arundel County, said the proposal “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“I think they should be paying for it themselves,” Elfreth said, adding that at the very least, the company should borrow the money from the state and pledge to pay it back. “I appreciate that ultimately it will reduce pollution, but I’d like private industry to be paying their fair share.”

Each year, millions of dollars in grants flow out of the Bay Restoration Fund to support projects that curb sewage overflows, retire septic systems and modernize wastewater treatment plants. The recipients are typically cities, towns, counties and their utilities.

Democratic Sen. Paul Pinsky, chair of the chamber’s environmental committee, criticized the proposal on the Senate floor March 9, but the Republican who represents Dorchester County, where the plant is located, defended the allocation.

“The reduction of nutrients that we get is very much worth it,” Sen. Addie Eckardt said. “Be careful pointing a finger at some of our businesses. Wastewater treatment is wastewater treatment.”

Well, do you you want the Bay clean or not?

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