Power had been restored to the plant Tuesday, a Howard County government spokesman said.

On average, the plant treats 50 million gallons a day, or about 2 million gallons an hour. As many as 2 million gallons of sewage per hour was being discharged into the river from the plant, located a half-mile east of Route 1 and Route 32, according to a news release from the department.

That means nearly 25 million gallons of sewage had spilled into the Little Patuxent River by Tuesday.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said Tuesday that public drinking water is safe in Howard County and there is no need to boil water.


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The main stem of the river has been affected with the bulk of the overflow, and residents are being asked to avoid the Patuxent south of Route 32.

"As of now, there is a minimal health risk," Ulman said. "We continue to tell people not to go into the river, or wade in standing water."

Ulman said the river water was less than 1 percent sewage, diluted by the massive amount of rain water, and that health officials are monitoring the situation.

New technology all around

For many, Superstorm Sandy was a chance to put social media as a communications tool to the test. County and city officials made use of Twitter, Facebook, email and dedicated alert systems such as Notify Me Prince George's to urge residents to prepare for power outages and possible flooding in advance of emergencies that might come with the storm.

Laurel city spokesman Pete Piringer, who has been in the job less than a month, kept a constant Twitter feed going, alerting residents to blocked roads and downed trees and sharing photos of city employees and rescue workers on the job.

"This was something new to us," Flemion said of the city's use of social media in an emergency event. "Pete Piringer did an outstanding job tweeting out information."

The information was flowing both directions. Flemion said Piringer was picking up reports of emergency situations and informing the city's Emergency Operation Center, which in turn would coordinate with on-site representatives from Laurel Police and rescue and fire personnel, to help with blocked roads and other emergency situations.

Flemion, who oversees the city's EOC with city administrator Kristie Mills, said that while most residents contact BGE on their own when they lose power, the EOC "conducts damage assessments all the way through an event, and provides it to BGE so they can ... line up their resources."

The storm was also a chance for city officials to try out a GIS tracking system for its fleet, providing a visual representation that allowed officials to prioritize the city's emergency efforts, Flemion said.

"We saw the value of social media in this event," Flemion said. "A lot of these resources we've been playing with over the last year, but this was the first time we actually employed them."

Flemion said the city also tried out its new radio system that allows various departments, including Public Works and Laurel Police, to easily communicate.

"This was new technology, new to everybody," he said. "More training in the right place will help out."

In situations such as Superstorm Sandy, Flemion said the city "prepares for the worst and hopes for the best."

Pete Pichaske, Sara Toth and Luke Lavoie contributed to this story.