Archer Western Contractors – Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore is being upgraded and enhanced to meet new permit limits regarding the discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus. The project will help clean up the water in the Chesapeake Bay.

After an October 2013 notice of pursuit, Archer Western Contractors will construct an enhanced nutrient removal process upgrade at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. Contract 877 is slated to conclude in October 2016. 

The biggest challenge, Project Manager Joe Chaklos says, is the schedule. The project timeline allows for only 36 months of construction work. To meet this tight timeframe, Chaklos is bringing in additional equipment and personnel. 

Local Labor

The project is devoted to recruiting from the local labor force for success. To this end, it has partnered with the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Economic Development to assist in its efforts to recruit Baltimore talent.

“We feel it is important to recruit the local labor force,” Chaklos says. 

Upon completion, the facility will have the world’s largest denitrification structure. This includes its aeration tank and active sludge plants for the treatment of sewage. “It is a large size. There is a decent amount of it [to build],” he says.

High-Profile Project

Since the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant renovation is a high-profile project with the critical task of improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, Chaklos’ team is organized for success. “We have a large office staff to manage the work,” he says. “We are always looking at schedules in the short-term and further ahead. We are not doing anything exotic. We just pay attention to our schedules.”

The team is constructing chemical feed facilities, 52 biological filters and a 300-million-gallon-per-day pumping station. The scope of work also includes modifications for two activated plants and new plant infrastructure such as roads, control systems and utility areas.

The Maryland Department of the Environment created the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program as a “partnership that implements and tracks progress toward goals to reduce pollution, restore habitats, manage fisheries, protect watersheds and foster stewardship,” according to the state. “In December 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency established a ‘pollution diet’ known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. This ‘diet’ sets limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that will be allowed into the bay each year. 

As part of this cleanup process, bay program partners are implementing and refining plans to reduce these pollutants over time. Reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution are among the top two objectives of the plan. 

The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is owned and operated by the city of Baltimore and opened in 1911.  Before cleanup efforts, the river frequently turned green or brown.

It is situated on the west shore of the Back River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The plant occupies a 466-acre site and has a 35-foot elevation difference from influent to outfall, allowing wastewater to flow through the plant entirely by gravity. An estimated 1.3 million residents in a 140-square-mile area of Baltimore city and county are served by this plant. 

The plant employs approximately 300 people, including supervisory, operations, maintenance, and laboratory personnel. 

Twenty-four hour, year-round plant operation is maintained. “Our facility has evolved into a tertiary treatment plant and is currently designed to treat 180 million gallons per day of wastewater utilizing fine bubble, air distributed, activated sludge,” the city says. 

At the plant’s Influent Metering Building, sewage flow rates are measured by two 78-inch diameter magnetic flow meters. After treatment, approximately 40 percent of the final effluent is diverted through two 6-mile long pipelines at Sparrows Point for industrial purposes. 

The remaining effluent passes through a 1,200-foot long outfall structure where it is diffused into Back River.

Archer Western was established in 1983 and incorporated in Illinois. Headquartered in Atlanta, the company is served by seven regional offices nationwide. Archer Western is a subsidiary of The Walsh Group, a general contracting, construction management and design/build firm ranked among the nation’s Top 15 contractors, according to Engineering News-Record. 

Each company has experience with a wide variety of building, civil, and transportation sectors including wastewater and water treatment plants, rapid transit, highway and bridgework, educational facilities, warehouse/distribution facilities, athletic facilities, correctional facilities, office, design/build and more.

The firm performs as an open-shop contractor and is an expert in various building, civil and transportation sectors. 

In all of its years of construction operations, Archer Western has never failed to complete a contract, the company says. 

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