Sewage leak fouled stream by Ellicott City neighborhood

Discovery by residents occurs after months of unsuccessful complaints

May 31, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

People in the Ellicott City neighborhood of Dunlogginsuspected for months that sewage was seeping into the stream behind their homes, but county officials never could find a problem.

Until Friday night. That's when St. John'sCommunity Association President LynneBerglingand her husband walked down the Plumtreestreambed and tracked a swath of sewage to a pipe about 120 feet to the west.

County workers arrived that evening and returned Saturday to fix the leak. Yesterday, Howard County employees and elected officials - from County Executive James N. Robey to state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe - gathered to assure residents that sewage pipes would be monitored.

One resident believed the stream was to blame for the E. coli bacteria that made her three children ill last year after floodwater flowed into their yard. According to a county Health Department report in January, health officials did not consider the stream to be the likely source of the E. coli bacteria.

Bob Beringer, chief of the county bureau of utilities, said workers had often checked the area since October, but had focused on an 18-inch main on the east side of the stream. But the leak was in a manhole over an 8-inch sanitary sewer pipe that was blocked with grease. Part of the manhole had shifted, and the seal wasn't watertight, Beringer said. Sewage leaked because the pipe was blocked.

Beringer doesn't think his workers were negligent for not checking that pipe, one of about 1,000in the Plumtree stream's watershed. But he added: "Would I say that [our investigation] was too focused? Yup. We should have expanded that. That's hindsight."

He's not sure how much sewage seeped out of the manhole or how long it had been escaping from the pipe.

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