SAVAGE, Md. —Howard County unveiled on Monday its plans to provide backup power at a sewage treatment plant that fell victim to significant flooding during Superstorm Sandy a year ago.
Shortly after Superstorm Sandy hit Maryland and knocked out power to the Little Patuxent Sewage Treatment Plant for over 24 hours, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman vowed that the large overflow of untreated waste from the plant would never happen again.
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Superstorm Sandy hit Maryland a year ago with strong, gusty winds, lots of rain, flooding and power outages. One of the areas that took a hard hit from the storm was the Little Patuxent Sewage Treatment Plant.
During the height of the storm, water rose above the level of valves and raw sewage came out of manholes flowing into the nearby river.
“A year ago today, all you could see was water. You couldn’t even tell there was a road behind me. It was just water as far as the eye could see, and really it wasn’t water, it was sewage, 20 million gallons flowed into the Middle Patuxent River,” Ulman said.
On Monday, county officials held a groundbreaking ceremony at the plant to make sure the county executive’s vows that this would never happen again become a reality.
“In essence, when the power goes out, this plant needs electricity to pump water. So, if there’s no electricity, the sewage is going to go into the river. So when the power’s out, this plant doesn’t function,” said Stephen Gerwin, chief of the Howard County Bureau of Utilities.
“This is now the first treatment plant in Maryland, the only treatment plant in Maryland that has full backup generation capability,” Ulman said.
The county will install two backup generators and 738 solar panels so the plant can remain operational.
“Right now, we have generation capacity to last about 45 minutes. We will have generators that can constantly be refueled by diesel that will make sure this plant continues to run. We’re also offsetting any of that carbon footprint with solar arrays that will generate more power to offset the carbon footprint from the generators,” Ulman said.
The generators and the solar panels should be up and running at the plant within a year.