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Sewage overflowing into Stony Run near 39th Street

stony run sewage leak

Chalky-white and smelly, Stony Run near 39th Street/University Parkway is the site of a sanitary sewer overflow.

Photo by: Fern Shen

When Elena Johnston jogs in Wyman Park with her black lab, Katie, she frequently lets the dog splash in Stony Run as a special treat.

Yesterday, told that a sewage leak reported to the city at 10:30 a.m. was apparently still leaking into the North Baltimore stream as of 5 p.m., she was livid.

The city had posted a couple of red “Danger Polluted Water” signs on the west side of University Parkway and on a tree halfway up the stream bank, but there were none down below in the flat grassy field where people throw Frisbees, run their dogs and let kids play. The press release to The Brew and other media went out at 4:20 p.m.

“Where is the notice? Why didn’t they publicize this? I have a big problem with this,” she said, running off to warn fellow dog walkers. “A lot of people and dogs could have been exposed to this stuff.”

We’ve asked the city Department of Public Works for a response on this question of public notice – and the larger issue of what could be causing the leak. (A DPW spokesman advises that the contractor has set up a bypass and no sewage is leaking into the stream. SEE THE REST OF THE UPDATE BELOW)

Site of Sewer Reconstruction Project

According to DPW, the overflow is the result of a broken 8-inch sanitary sewer main that is still, this evenng, flowing into Stony Run near W. 39th St.

The sewage is was overflowing at a rate of 50 to 100 gallons-per-minute, according to the department. Crews initially responded and used “a harmless red dye to help pinpoint the location of the break.”

Some bystanders said they’d noticed an odor and the bright red colored water earlier.

On University Pkwy' a city Department of Health sign warning about sewage spill. (Photo by Fern Shen)

On University Parkway, a Department of Health sign warning about the sewage spill. (Photo by Fern Shen)

By the time The Brew got there it was chalky white and the odor was rank.

The spot where the sewage is leaking is the same one where the city has in recent years undertaken a massive more than $10 million sanitary sewer reconstruction project and stream restoration.

Stony Run flows into the Jones Falls, which in turn flows to the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay. Just a week ago, a grease-plug in a sewer line along Falls Road sent more than 21,000 gallons of sewage into the Jones Falls.

UPDATE: DPW Responds

We received an emailed reply from spokesman Jeffrey Raymond this evening:

“We needed to confirm the nature and scale of the problem we were dealing with, once we got the first report, before we put out the notice. We did get out the information out soon after it was confirmed, a few hours after the initial report and well within the 24 hours we have by law.

We try to let people know that our streams are not considered safe, regardless of whether there is a nearby sanitary sewer overflow. Trash, animal waste, yard waste and street runoff enters those streams. We try to keep notifications posted where people will see them. If more posting is warranted then we will take care of that.”

Raymond also said the contractor “will mobilize equipment tonight and start repair tomorrow.”

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  • Frank Fletcher

    Wouldn’t you think that the woman with the dog would smell the stream and see the discoloration? And did she really think that a stream in ANY city is going to be pristine? I’ve seen the blue and green signs at Herring Run telling people not to touch the water.

  • Chris

    And somehow this all is ok. We can forget about the environmental impact as long as we warn the citizens. B’more is a train wreck.

  • Eric James Woody

    The Politicians nowadays don’t care about the environment.

  • Dean Uhler

    The water in Stony Run in Wyman Park is gray and smells bad today, Sunday June 30, 2013. The cause is sewage that is still leaking into the stream at the storm drain outfall near 39th Street and University Parkway. Roughly 50 to 100 gallons of sewage are leaking per minute, just as it was over three weeks ago when initially reported. No DPW crew or contractor is working in the area. Raw sewage spills are a public health and environmental emergency and should be treated as such.

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