a small stream running through a forest filled with trees

12 Million Gallons of Sewage and Counting

Last Wednesday night, the Baltimore region received more than two inches of rain, which led to significant flooding around the region.

When large rainstorms like these hit Baltimore, stormwater runoff leaks into our sanitary sewer system through cracks in aging pipes and illegal connections. The stormwater mixes with sewage and overwhelms both the pipes and the city’s treatment plants.

As a result, the storm last week led the Baltimore City Department of Public Works to report more than 12 million gallons of sewage were discharged into the city’s Jones Falls and Inner Harbor.

Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper David Flores believes the totals are even greater, because our fieldwork indicates that sewer overflows occurred throughout all of the city’s streams including the Herring Run and Gwynns Falls.


Under the terms of a consent decree signed in 2002, Baltimore City agreed to stop such sewage leaks and overflows by January 1, 2016.

That Clean Water Act deadline has come and gone despite the fact that many of the required projects have not been completed and some have not yet been started.

So far the EPA has proposed no new deadline.

At Blue Water Baltimore, we continue to be very frustrated by this delay. The Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of the Environment, and Baltimore City have been in negotiations since 2013: it is past time for action.

However, we remain hopeful that many of the specific issues we have advocated for and the shortcomings we have highlighted will be addressed by the forthcoming modification to the consent decree.

Blue Water Baltimore is unique in that we have the technical skills to gather rigorous data collected in the field to support our critical work as a watchdog organization. This, supported by knowledge of the legal and regulatory systems allows us to be effective advocates for Baltimore’s waterways.

As a result, we are present onsite at the streams and at chronic overflow locations across the city where we regularly monitor the region’s stormwater outfalls, streams, rivers, and harbor. In this way, we can ensure that the voices of residents are heard and the public’s interest in clean water is protected.

After all, the citizens of Baltimore are paying, and have paid, for this work.

Depending on the exact nature of the new consent decree, including whatever new deadline is agreed upon, Blue Water Baltimore will be paying close attention. Most immediately, we will take full advantage of the mandatory thirty-day public comment period when the decree is finally released.

Above all, we look forward to a day when sewage overflows like the ones we observed last week are no longer a common occurrence.

In order for us to fully represent the interests of Baltimore’s residents, Blue Water Baltimore depends on the support of people like you.

If you’d like to help us ensure that sewage discharges like the ones last week don’t remain a normal occurence for Baltimore, please make a gift so that we can continue the fight.

Click here to donate now.

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