Millions of gallons of raw sewage were overflowing into the Little Patuxent River in Howard County late Monday and early Tuesday morning after two separate electrical feeds were cut off at the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant, according to county officials.
Officials were not sure when the overflow would be stopped.
The plant, about a half-mile east of the intersection of Route 1 and Route 32 at 8900 Greenwood Place in Savage, serves the central part of Howard County. Power was knocked out to the first 32,000-volt electrical feeder amid high winds and rain in the region because of superstorm Sandy about 8:30 or 9 p.m., and to the second at 11 p.m., said Stephen Gerwin, the county's utilities bureau chief.
Power is used to pump waste water uphill into the treatment plant, he said. Without it, the sewage flowing into the plant overflows.
"When you have this kind of event, these are the sort of consequences you're going to get," Gerwin said of Sandy's heavy impact at the plant.
Gerwin said Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. was unable to immediately restore power because it needs to put employees up in bucket trucks to do so and is unable because of the storm's high winds.
Gerwin said BGE had made the plant a top priority but said it would not be able to begin work to fix the problem until at least 5 a.m. Tuesday.
About 2 million gallons was being discharged from the plant per hour, though that volume constitutes sewage and a high volume of rain water coming out of the facility, Gerwin said.
Residents were told to avoid the river south of Route 32.
Raw sewage being released from a plant in Savage during tropical storm Agnes in 1972 prompted state officials to call on residents to boil their water. No such advisory had been posted in the early hours of Tuesday.