Work begins on another project to stop erosion on Federal Hill

$1.9 million to be spent on stabilization effort

July 15, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Bulldozers scraped soil yesterday from the north face of Federal Hill as part of a $1.9 million project to halt erosion on the historic site overlooking the Inner Harbor.

It is the third time in seven years the city has tried to stabilize the 80-foot hill, from which Union troops trained cannons on occupied Baltimore during the Civil War.

In 1992, the city spent $1.4 million installing drains and a retaining wall in an attempt to stop the erosion. Three years later, it spent $500,000 trying to repair the drains. But the erosion continued, and in 1996, melting snow might have helped to rip a 90-foot-long fissure on the northern slope, officials said.

George G. Balog, the director of public works, said yesterday the city plans over the next six months to remove 8 feet of soil and replace it with 7 feet of rock, plastic netting and a layer of dirt and grass.

Engineers hope this will make the top of the hill more stable and prevent future erosion, said Pat O'Keefe, an engineer with Whitney, Bailey, Cox and Magnani of Baltimore, which is supervising the project for the city.

The park and playground on top of the hill will remain open to the public during the project, O'Keefe said.

Workers will dig up the drains installed in 1992 to determine if they were built properly, Balog said. If they were made badly, the city might try to hold the contractor, Potts & Callahan of Baltimore, responsible for the cost, Balog said.

Charles M. Holub, president of Potts & Callahan, said his company installed the drains as the city specified and that the city inspected the completed work.

"I feel badly because I did the job, and it failed," Holub said. "But there is no doubt that we built exactly what the design called for."

Pub Date: 7/15/99

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