Baltimore City

Chlorine gas leak, water main break near Lake Ashburton in Northwest Baltimore

With sub-freezing temperatures causing three dozen water main breaks across the city and county as of Tuesday morning, the Baltimore Department of Public Works issued a 72-hour notice to dozens of utility maintenance workers of mandatory, 12-hour overtime shifts without leave.

A chlorine pumping station near Lake Ashburton in Northwest Baltimore leaked poisonous chlorine gas early Wednesday, while a separate broken water main across Longwood Street coated a sidewalk with ice, requiring water to be shut off in the area for about 70 customers.

The city Department of Public Works initially reported that the broken water main was leaking freshly chlorinated water — and attributed the chlorine smell in the area to the water leak — before clarifying that a separate gas leak had taken place.


“As it turns out, the water main break and the gas problem seemed linked by proximity and timing, but they are unrelated events,” Department of Public Works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said.

The gas leak, caused by a broken vacuum regulator at the pumping station, was discovered about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday and contained in about an hour and 15 minutes, Raymond said. It’s unclear how much chlorine leaked or whether it settled into the lake in Hanlon Park, at Liberty Heights Avenue and North Hilton Street.


Chlorine gas can cause breathing problems and even death if inhaled but is heavier than air and tends to settle to the ground and disperse quickly. It was first used as a chemical weapon in World War I.

A collapsed sidewalk in the 2700 block of Longwood Street, where the water main break was discovered around the same time, was cordoned off Wednesday. The cause of the water main break has not been identified, Raymond said.

Cynthia Dorsey, 56, who lives on the block, said she first noticed water from the broken main running down the street Tuesday afternoon.

“They were talking about one on the news last night, but that wasn’t in this area,” Dorsey said. “But when we went to the store, we seen the water going down the hill.”

When Dorsey noticed her water had been shut off around midnight, she said, she called her landlord, who told her the whole block’s water was out.

It’s one of nearly three dozen water main breaks in the city and Baltimore County that public works crews were responding to during a frigid first week of the year, officials said. Crews also repaired a broken main at 25th and St. Paul streets Wednesday and were working on another at North and Greenmount avenues.

The city is ordering all public works crews to work 12-hour shifts and calling in contractors to repair the slew of water main breaks.

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Residents on Green Ridge Road in Catonsville were dealing with ice-covered lawns, trees, gutters, power lines and porches after a water main break doused the street with an unrelenting tower of water for hours Tuesday night. The Department of Public works stopped the leak around 10:15 p.m.


A water main break in Annapolis shut Bay Ridge Road in both directions overnight Tuesday. Annapolis police said officers were called to assist with repairs to the break in the area of Bay Ridge Road and Cypress Road Tuesday night.

Capt. Russ Davies, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, said that since Monday, the department has responded to at least 10 calls of broken pipes in homes as well as 10 calls for fire alarms set off by a sprinkler system malfunctioning due to the cold.

In Harford County, Havre de Grace public works crews looking for the source of a water leak learned Wednesday that frozen equipment was to blame.

“The extremely cold temperatures caused a gauge level indicator to freeze. Subsequently, this gave us a false reading leading us to believe water pressure was low, an indicator of a water leak,” said Adam Rybczynski, the city’s digitial marketing strategist.

Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman and Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Phil Davis, E.B. Furgurson III and Erika Butler contributed to this report.