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Storm breaches trash boom, sends debris down Back River

Junk and debris floats down Back River after trash boom broke in storm.

The rainstorm that flooded streets and stranded cars in sections of eastern Baltimore County on Monday night also broke a boom on the Back River that corrals trash, sending debris and junk floating down the river.

"Everything you can think of comes down the river," said Sam Weaver, president of the Back River Restoration Committee, a volunteer group that works with local officials to oversee conservation efforts.

The committee maintains the boom in the river near the Interstate 695 overpass. The boom — essentially a plastic curtain that hangs in the water — catches trash as it flows downstream from Herring Run, Moores Run and other tributaries.

Weaver, who owns Weaver's Marine Service in Essex, said workers empty the trash each weekday, collecting upward of 18 tons per month.

Monday's storm sent a large amount of debris rushing into the boom, and Weaver said a log, stump or other large piece of debris broke through it.

On Tuesday morning, the boat ramp at Cox's Point Park a few miles downriver was covered with trash and debris including sticks, soda bottles, a McDonald's coffee cup, an empty spaghetti sauce jar, a blue golf ball and a dark green cooler. Large tree trunks and logs poked through the surface of the river, and ribbons of murky sediment stretched downstream.

As much as 2 inches of rain fell over eastern Baltimore County during a brief span Monday, according to the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

A car was stranded in high water on Wilson Point Road near Martin State Airport about 8:25 p.m., and another was trapped at Middle River and Compass roads in Middle River about 9:45 p.m. Loch Raven Boulevard was closed just inside the city line for a period because of flooding.

Weaver said his committee hopes to have the Back River boom patched by the end of the week. If members can't fix it themselves, they'll likely ask Baltimore County for money to make repairs. The county grants the committee about $130,000 annually to maintain the 800-foot-long boom and pay for the workers who empty it out, Weaver said.

County Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican who represents the area, said he's working to ensure the committee will receive "any and all support" needed to fix the broken boom.

Back River and the Patapsco River earned a grade of "F" in the most recent Chesapeake Bay health report card issued by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

While the rivers have "very poor ecosystem health," the center concluded, they show slight improvement.

Weaver said he wished upstream problems — litter from urban areas and erosion from development — could be solved. The Back River has a watershed of nearly 56 square miles reaching across Baltimore City and up to Towson. Trash that hits the ground or tumbles into storm drains ends up in the river in southeastern Baltimore County.

"Everyone wants to clean up the Chesapeake Bay," Weaver said. "You've got to start right here."

Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.

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