Nearly 6 million gallons of rain and sewer water were released into Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls after last weekend's storm, according to a press release by the Baltimore City Department of Public Works.
The release came from structured outfalls, which look like large drainage pipes, that were designed more than 100 years ago to alleviate sewers overwhelmed with rainwater. Data collected by monitors inside the outfalls revealed about 5.8 million gallons of water was released. About 10,000 gallons flowed into Gwynns Falls, and the rest landed in Jones Falls.
"Those streams drain a wide area, and the water picks up pollutants of all various types," said Jeffrey Raymond, chief of communications in the public works department.
Raymond said previous water quality samples show the waterways contain both harmful chemicals and bacteria. There are multiple signs along both waterways warning people against contact with the water, which includes fishing, swimming or wading. Online,, the Baltimore City Health Department recommends seeing a local health provider if an open wound or sore comes into contact with the water.
Baltimore City has sealed all but two of the 62 outfalls as part of the $1 billion plan to repair the city's wastewater system. The remaining outfalls will stay open until the city fixes what the press release described as a "major hydraulic correction" at Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Sun reported in 2015 that the correction will cost about $400 million and take at least two years. Raymond said this correction could reduce the city's overflows by more than 80 percent.
Both Baltimore city and county are under federal consent decrees with the Environmental Protection Agency to stop chronic sewage overflows and leaks. Signed in 2002, the decree originally mandated that Baltimore City finish repairs by Jan. 1 this year. City officials negotiated a new pact, announced on June 1, that extended the deadline for key repairs to be completed by 2020.