Balto. County officials explain response to sewage spills

Two recent overflows lead to public meeting

May 29, 2002|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County public works officials met with about 20 area members of environmental groups last night in the wake of two recent sewage overflows.

Led by Public Works Director Ed Adams, county officials spent about 90 minutes explaining the huge county sewer system, which includes 3,000 miles of pipeline and handles 40 billion gallons of sewage per year.

Some of those who attended the meeting walked away impressed. "I think it's very proactive for Baltimore County to call this meeting for citizen input," said C. Victoria Woodward, executive director of Safe Waterways in Maryland.

County officials called the meeting after two sewage spills that occurred within a week. The first took place April 28 when 5 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Gunpowder Falls. A broken pump at the Perry Hall pumping station was blamed for the overflow.

The second spill occurred May 5 when 190,000 gallons of sewage spewed into School House Grove and Bear Creek after an alarm failed to sound at the North Point Village pumping station in Dundalk.

Staff of the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management discussed the steps the county takes after a spill.

Bill Clarke, program manager, told the crowd that the county immediately begins testing the waterways to measure damage.

After the Gunpowder Falls spill, the county took up to 120 samples in a two-week period. By taking samples upstream and downstream, the county can get an idea of when the waterway has healed, Clarke said.

"Mother Nature has a critical role to play here, and we can't control it," Clarke said.

Also on hand at the meeting was state Del. Dan K. Morhaim, who was instrumental in forming the Governor's Task Force on Upgrading Sewerage Systems.

The task force report states that it will take $4.3 billion over the next 20 years to repair Maryland sewers.

"I'm just glad people are finally meeting on this issue," Morhaim said. "It's really a serious statewide problem."

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