The tributary to the Patapsco River that runs from Baltimore County through north Baltimore along Interstate 83 into the Inner Harbor has had a stinker of a summer.
The second-rainiest summer on record has forced the urban stream to absorb tens of millions of gallons of sewage-tainted stormwater overflowing from Baltimore’s decrepit sewer system.
The latest release came after remnants of Hurricane Florence brought heavy rains to the region Tuesday. Baltimore’s Department of Public Works said Friday the rains overwhelmed the sewer system and the excess was diverted into streams. Again.
After spending $700 million over the past 13 years, the city of Baltimore plans to drop another $400 million to fix an aging, leaky sewer system that routinely fouls areas streams and the harbor with raw human waste. But less than four months before a court-ordered deadline, the overhaul is nowhere near done.
It was at least the eighth time this summer that the department announced or updated such overflows.
The latest one resulted in 19 million gallons of stormwater mixed with human waste — a polluted stew of bacteria, pathogens, chemicals and nutrients — flowing mostly into the Jones Falls.
A week earlier, public works officials said a Sept. 9 storm resulted in 24.5 million gallons of stormwater mixed with sewage entering the Jones Falls. An additional 3,000 gallons overflowed into the Gwynns Falls, which runs through West Baltimore to the Inner Harbor.
So much overflowed in July — the rainiest July on record — that the city sent out three releases, updating the numbers. The last one came Aug. 7 and reported more than 85 million gallons released into city streams.
Baltimore will now pay up to $2,500 toward cleanup costs associated with some basement sewage backups. The city launched the reimbursement program last month under a federally supervised program to modernize its aged, leaky sewer system.
The city is spending $2 billion to rehabilitate its sewer system and eliminate the structured overflows, but until that work is complete, it’s best to stay out of the urban waterways, public works officials said.