The Department of Public Works disclosed late today that 3.1 million gallons of raw sewage, mixed with rainwater, were released into the Jones Falls waterway as a result of Friday’s storm.
The releases came from three “structured outfalls” that are permitted under a federal consent decree overseeing the cleanup of Baltimore Harbor, which has consistently received failing grades for water quality.
Just one of the outfalls is visible to the eye and, more starkly, to the nose.
It’s known as SSO (Sanitary Sewer Outfall) No. 67 at 1901 Falls Road, opposite the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.
The overflow pipe dispensed 450,000 gallons of rainwater-laced sewage into the Jones Falls during and after the May 3 storm, according to the Department of Public Works (DPW).
A member of Blue Water Baltimore posted pictures of fecal matter, toilet paper and used tampons that were left behind from the deluge.
A larger outfall, located underground in the 400 block of East Preston Street, released 2.6 million gallons.
An additional 63,000 gallons of untreated sewage were dumped from an outfall below Lanvale and Charles streets in the North Avenue Arts and Entertainment District.
Two other discharges took place as a result of Friday’s storm, DPW said in a press release that is required by state law.
A little more than 60,000 gallons of sewage mixed with rainwater bubbled up from a manhole at Eager and Wolfe streets, a frequent overflow site a few blocks north of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Another 32,000 gallons were released at Garrison Avenue and Queensberry Road, not far from Sinai Hospital in Northwest Baltimore.
Structured overflows were installed a century ago as “release points” when too much rainwater entered the sewer system. After decades of poor upkeep, the sewer lines have blockage points and sags that can cause overflowing toilets and flooded basements in homes and businesses during heavy storms.
The release of untreated sewage into the Jones Falls, Herring Run, Gwynns Falls and other local waterways are in direct violation of the 1973 Clean Water Act.
To avoid heavy penalties, Baltimore City signed a consent decree in 2002 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to correct the problem through improved engineering.
Originally requiring the city to be in compliance by December 31, 2015, the consent decree was extended to 2030 as the city copes with roughly $1 billion of upgrades to its sewer lines and the Back River and Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plants.