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Raw sewage leaked into the Gwynns Falls from a broken sewer pipe for eight days before utility crews were able to repair it two weeks ago, city officials disclosed Thursday.

The Department of Public Works estimated 17,553 gallons of untreated waste dribbled into the West Baltimore stream. It's not clear why the pollution took so long to stop, or why the city waited to inform the public until after the problem had been fixed.

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City workers discovered a small leak Sept. 24 in a heavily wooded area north of Edmondson Avenue, where a tree had fallen on an exposed sewer pipe. The flow of sewage increased two days later, after crews had removed tree debris and flushed the line.

An attempt to plug the leak at that time failed, according to the department. Sewage continued to spill into the stream at an estimated two gallons per minute until Oct. 2, when the pipe was finally repaired.

The press release issued Thursday afternoon said the city notified the state of the leak on the day the pipe was fixed.

State regulations require sewage overflows be reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment "as soon as practicable" but no more than 24 hours after they've been discovered. Utilities also are supposed to alert the public just as promptly unless the spill is believed to be less than 10,000 gallons.

Asked about the apparent delay in reporting, Public Works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said he'd been told city officials had telephoned the state sometime within a couple days of finding the leak. He also said the public should be generally aware that the Gwynns Falls is not safe to go in, as the city has signs permanently posted in places along the stream banks warning that the water could be polluted.

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