A pipeline carrying raw sewage from a western Baltimore County pumping station to a treatment plant in the city has spilled more than 70 million gallons into the Patapsco River since it ruptured over the weekend.
The county said the breach, reported late Sunday, would be repaired by Friday at a cost of about $250,000.
A neighbor of the Patapsco Pumping Station on Old Annapolis Road in Baltimore Highlands reported the spill soon after it occurred, officials said. Baltimore County hired Spiniello Companies, Inc., a concrete contractor, to replace the 54-inch concrete pipe and another smaller pipe was found to be damaged. The larger pipe pumps about 17 million gallons daily to the Patapsco WastewaterTreatment Plant in Baltimore City. That amount continued to spill daily into the river until the line was replaced, officials said.
"The good news is that repairs are nearly complete and the line is expected to be back in operation by Friday," said David Fidler, spokesman for the county public works department. "There was no good solution to this problem. The line had to be repaired immediately. Letting sewage spill into the river, while we repaired the line, was the only thing we could do. Otherwise, it would back up into homes."
The Health Department has posted signs warning residents to avoid the river. Health inspectors are monitoring the water quality daily, he said, and have found that the water is unsafe to swim or wade in — or even to touch.
The county lost power at 12 of its 118 pumping stations during Hurricane Irene. That outage may have contributed to the break at the Patapsco plant, one of the county's largest, with four main pumps that handle about half the sewage from the western end of the county. But a faulty pipe, installed more than 30 years ago and known to cause problems, may have been to blame, he said.
"The pipe was made from pre-stressed concrete," Fidler said. "Problems with it don't surface until years after it is laid."