Baltimore officials estimate 8,000 gallons of wastewater released after sewage backup near Stony Run stream

About 8,000 gallons of wastewater were released near Baltimore’s Stony Run stream after a sewer line backup last week, city officials said.

The leak was reported just before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, said James Bentley, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Works. Crews were able to clear the main line blockage later that day, he said.


Jack Boyson, immediate past president of the Wyman Park Community Association, said a pair of dog walkers reported the leak in an email to the group.

Boyson, who lives next to Wyman Park, walked over to investigate. From the pedestrian bridge just north of University Parkway near the Carlyle Apartment Homes, he could see water flowing into the stream.


“It didn’t look clear. It looked like gray water,” Boyson said. “I couldn’t smell anything because I was high up above overlooking the area.”

The leak is very concerning for neighbors, Boyson said, particularly since people and pets frequently walk along the stream and even swim inside it.

“We always recommend that people not walk in the stream and not get in the water because they can get contaminated, but I’ve always seen kids during the summertime when it was really hot walking in the water,” Boyson said.

Alice Volpitta, Baltimore Harborkeeper for advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore, said spills like this are a “worst-case scenario” for local waterways. Spills can release large amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into streams, stimulating the growth of oxygen-sucking algae — a nemesis for the Chesapeake Bay.

A sewer line backup caused about 8,000 gallons of wastewater to be released near the Stony Run stream Wednesday, according to the city’s Department of Public Works.

“Most of us know that sewage is full of bacteria and harmful pathogens that can make us sick, but sewage also carries toxic chemicals and industrial waste,” Volpitta wrote in an email. “We often don’t know exactly what’s in that liquid to begin with. People and their pets should stay away from sewage spills because they are dangerous and can lead to serious illness.”

In 2017, the city entered into a consent decree with state and federal environmental regulators, promising to complete certain upgrades to its aging sewer system by 2030. The city agreed to spend $1.6 billion on the repairs.

In the meantime, the city’s public works department should do more to warn residents about spills, Volpitta said.

“[Public works] has a responsibility to protect public safety by posting adequate signage downstream of sewage spills, issuing public [news] releases, and roping off any access where people could come into contact with the sewage,” Volpitta said.


Leaks have a damaging impact on fauna in Wyman Park, which attracts visitors from around the city, Boyson said.

“This is like our lawn and our recreation area. Johns Hopkins students, as well as people up and down all the way from Roland Park to Remington, use the Stony Run Trail for recreation,” Boyson said.

“We want to make sure that people can come and enjoy it.”