Public works officials say power outages caused sewer overflows

Baltimore County officials said on Monday that power outages from Hurricane Irene's winds this past weekend caused 12 sewage pump stations located across the county to overflow at various times, and for varying periods on Sunday.

The overflow was estimated at 16.5 million gallons.

The county's Department of Public Works said that on the north side of the county, Forge Acres, Buchanan Road and Texas pump stations overflowed.

On the west side, the Patapsco, Frederick Road, Valley Village and Carroll Avenue stations overflowed.

And on the south-east side of the county, five stations had reportedly overflowed — Delmar, Masseth Avenue, Chesapeake Terrace, Hyde Park and Fort Howard stations.

Nearly half of Baltimore County's stations were affected by Hurricane Irene, officials said. In several cases where power is supplied to the stations through two independent electrical feeds, both feeders were knocked out of service.

At other stations, trees downed over live power lines prevented county crews from accessing the stations with portable generators until BGE could confirm that the power lines were not charged, officials said.

The problem was "surprisingly democratically scattered," said DPW spokesman David Fiddler, and often aggravated by the fact that work crews had to wait to make repairs until BGE determined the wires downed by trees were safe.

The good news is that they had stemmed the flow by Monday, he said.

The county Department of Health listed the following waters as those known to have been directly affected by sewage overflows, and issued Water Quality Advisories for those areas:

• The Patapsco River south of Ilchester Road, continuing to the river mouth.

• Jones Falls, east of Greenspring Valley Road.

• Beaver Dam Run, east of Recycle Way.

• Brice Run, south of Liberty Road.

• Lake Roland, south of Bellona Avenue.

• Gunpowder River, east of Philadelphia Road.

• Back River-Muddy Gut, south west of Route 702.

• Chink Creek, south of Wise Ave.

• Jones Creek, south of Sparrows Point Road

• Old Road Bay south of Bay Front Road. 

The health department said sampling of these areas will be conducted and advisories will be lifted when the waters return to ambient conditions. It should be noted that wind, tides, and weather can cause these conditions to persist for some time after storms have past.

Rupture in Patapsco line

In addition to the outages, the county also said that public works utility crews had discovered a rupture in a 54-inch diameter pressure line from the Patapsco Sewage Pumping Station, located east of Old Annapolis Road in Baltimore Highlands, shortly before midnight, Sunday, Aug. 28.

The pipe transports about 17 million gallons of sewage daily from the western half of the county to the Patapsco Treatment Plant in Baltimore City. As of Monday, the overflow was ongoing.

Officials said the county had enlisted Spiniello Companies Inc. a contractor specializing in large repairs, to replace the line, and has received material and technical help from Baltimore City and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Engineers expect that the repair can be completed in four days.

The failure in the line followed the restoration of power to the sewage pumping station over the weekend.

Officials said the line has no history of failures, though engineers have recently been collecting data as part of the county's maintenance program to comply with a federal decree to improve sanitary infrastructure. Public works recently invested $16 million to renovate the Patapsco Pumping Station and $30 million to restore five miles of sewer line along the Patapsco.

In the past six years Baltimore County has invested more than $300 million into the sewer system, according to the Department of Public Works.

Officials said in a release that the county Department of Health will monitor water quality in areas affected by both the outages and the pipe rupture, and will publish water contact advisories when necessary on the agency's website.

Loni Ingraham contributed to this story.

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