Governor Larry Hogan Signs Executive Order to Begin Midge Eradication on Back River
Will Significantly Reduce Infestation with No Environmental Impact
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today signed Executive Order 01.01.2017.17, which will direct the Maryland Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to begin eradication of the midge population in the Back River in Baltimore County. The targeted treatments will use a biological product approved for organic farming that was recommended by a panel of scientists and will have no impact on the environment or other species. Midges, which have posed a nuisance since 2008, have had significant economic ramifications for tourism, local businesses, and community facilities in the county.
“We have heard the repeated call of local residents loud and clear,” said Governor Hogan. “Our administration is proud to take action to provide immediate and much-needed relief from this ongoing nuisance and provide further upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.”
This afternoon, the governor joined Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh and other state and local officials for the groundbreaking of the Back River Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is expected to reduce more than 80 percent of the volume of the sewage overflows from the Baltimore City Sewer System. The state is investing more than $650 million for the project, which is expected to reduce nitrogen to the Bay by more than 1.8 million pounds per year.
According to a 2014 Department of Natural Resources study, nutrient pollution stemming from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is the likely cause of the midge infestation in the area. While upgrades to the Back River plant are on schedule, the infestation still poses an immediate impact to marinas, restaurants with outdoor seating, and other small businesses, as well as activities at a local senior center.
“I commend Governor Hogan for his leadership on this issue by launching a pilot initiative to help marinas, restaurants and local residents,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “The state is taking action, despite the county’s refusal to act, to reduce the nuisance of midges so Marylanders can enjoy the Back River.”
Earlier this year, Governor Hogan provided state funding to mitigate the midge infestation in the Back River area of Baltimore County, following multiple refusals by the county to address the issue. In October 2016, Governor Hogan offered to have the state split the cost of a treatment program, but county officials declined the state’s offer. The administration moved ahead, dedicating over $330,000 to fund treatments for target “hot spots” in the region starting in spring 2017 to provide relief for local residents and businesses through the summer and early fall, while working to assess the treatments’ effectiveness. However, the state’s action was delayed by Baltimore County, the General Assembly, and the Attorney General.
To date, the state has given $288 million in financial aid to Baltimore County to upgrade the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant with biological nutrient and enhanced nutrient removal technologies, which is anticipated to provide a long-term solution to the midge infestation, and today’s Executive Order will enable the state to move forward with delivering immediate relief for the community.