The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Sewage Explosion

Apr 3, 2023

An explosion and fire at Baltimore’s Back River Waste Water Treatment facility in Dundalk, Maryland on March 15 blew holes in three walls of a building where sewage sludge is processed into agricultural fertilizer pellets. Firefighters suspect a hole in a pipe let heating oil hit the pellets and ignite. The building stores 12,000 gallons of thermal oil. The damage stopped the pellet-making process, so huge volumes of sludge began accumulating. The plant produces more than 30,000 pounds of pellets per day, processing much of the city and county’s sewage. Management quickly promised to truck the sludge somewhere else.

It turns out that this building has been leased from the city for almost nothing for a quarter of a century by a private company, Synagro, which sells the pellets. Synagro constructed the building with a loan the city took out. When that arrangement was made, it already wasn’t new for the city to use the Back River facility to subsidize big business. For several generations, the plant had provided lightly processed sewer water practically for free to cool the equipment at the Sparrows Point steel mill. The city pays Synagro more than 15 million dollars per year to run the pellet-making process. For years it’s been the city’s biggest, if least known, contractor. Synagro is owned by Goldman Sachs and has operations in 35 states plus D.C.

Facilities like this need much more investment. But apparently the city’s priority is to give money to Synagro!