A sinkhole discovered on the grounds of the Montebello Water Filtration Plant in Northeast Baltimore has led to fears that a crucial city water main could potentially be compromised.
The sinkhole has exposed and undermined a 84-inch water pipe that serves East Baltimore, downtown and southeast sections of the city, heightening concerns that the pipe may crack or shift, leading to possible water outages, sources tell The Brew tonight.
“We’ve been put on standby in case the pipe has to be closed,” confided one city official, explaining that plans are underway to hand out bottled water to local residents in case the water main has to be turned off for repairs.
A major complicating factor is the weather.
With up to 3 inches of rain expected overnight and into Saturday morning from the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, there are worries that the water main could be destabilized by the sinkhole around it.
“The rain is going to determine what happens. All that water going into the sinkhole – plus gravity – won’t be helping the situation,” said a source.
Public Works Director Jason Mitchell released a statement this afternoon saying that crews are trying to “stabilize the site swiftly so that the pipes can be secured, the sinkhole backfilled and water service maintained for our valued customers.”
The agency did not offer additional details, and its public relations office did not respond to phone calls tonight.
The sinkhole was caused by an 1880s-era tunnel that carries stormwater from various parts of North Baltimore.
The tunnel partly collapsed on the property of the Montebello 1 Filtration Plant, and any heavy rainfall will direct more stormwater into the damaged tunnel.
Access to the site, located east of Hillen and Kennewick roads, was restricted tonight by DPW’s emergency crews.