State and Anne Arundel County officials are trying to assess the damage caused when a sewer line was ruptured in Severn Tuesday, releasing between 20,000 gallons and 25,000 gallons of wastewater.
A utility contractor digging ditches for a new subdivision near Burns Crossing Road struck the line about 3 p.m., said Lisa Ritter, spokeswoman for the county's department of Land Use and Environment.
Sewage flowed sporadically from the line for about three hours before county officials repaired it, Ms. Ritter said.
"This was a major penetration," she said.
The county's health department and the Maryland Department of the Environment were notified.
Health inspectors were sent to the site Tuesday evening and again yesterday.
The inspectors took water samples of the nearby Severn Run and the headwaters of the Severn River, but results of those tests won't be known until today, said Evelyn Stein, a health department spokeswoman.
Officials with the Department of Environment were awaiting the county's report before determining whether to take action against the contractor, Burgermeister-Bell Inc. of Baltimore.
Ms. Ritter said late yesterday that it was still unclear how the rupture occurred.
The break apparently happened in a wooded area near the new Severn Crossing development.
Officials said they know that sewage escaped into a storm water pond at the site, but they were uncertain whether it also contaminated nearby streams.
The spill poses no hazard for drinking water, Ms. Stein said.
She added that, because the spill occurred in the winter, the danger was less than had it occurred in the summer.
Cold water retards bacteria growth, and fewer people are now outdoors and exposed to the water.