Baltimore public works eyes sewer tunnel as possible cause of Centre Street collapse

Public works is eyeing a broken sewer tunnel as the possible cause of the Centre Street collapse.

Baltimore City Department of Public Works contractors are installing a temporary sewer line to bypass the sewer tunnel running under the site of the Centre Street collapse in Mount Vernon to allow for a better look at its cause, officials said.

While the source of the roughly 10-foot deep hole hasn't been identified, the move to empty the 6-foot sewer tunnel and divert sewage to an alternate line indicates that a break in the tunnel is a leading theory.

"The dirt went somewhere," said public works spokesman Kurt Kocher, "which indicates that it probably did go down into the sewer line."

BGE workers doing conduit work on Centre Street in Mount Vernon noticed gaps in the road, Kocher said, and called the city to notify officials. The hole opened up in the middle of the street early Saturday morning.

It's unclear how long the 100 block of Centre St. will be closed. Heavy construction equipment sat idly near its edge Monday afternoon.

"Once we take the sewer off, then we can ... look at the actual physical condition of it," said DPW director Rudolph Chow, who visited the scene Monday.

The city is spending more than $1 billion to fix its aging, leaky sewer system that routinely pours raw human waste into streams and the harbor.

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