BGE contractor damages sewer line, sending sewage flowing into Patapsco River in Westport

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Photo by Ethan McLeod

In a classic case of utility work gone horribly wrong, a contractor for Baltimore Gas and Electric today damaged what the Baltimore City Department of Public Works says is a “large sewer line” in Westport, sending human waste flowing into the Patapsco River’s Middle Branch nearby.

The break started around 9:30 a.m., DPW spokesman Kurt Kocher said via email.   “Approximately 100 gallons per minute” was flowing from the pipe, according to a release, which would amount to tens of thousands of gallons of sewage throughout the day if it hasn’t been stemmed.

DPW crews have been working to divert the fecal flow to another sewer main using sandbags and other methods, according to a release. “This work is in progress so overflow totals, including into the Patapsco, are not known at this time,” said the announcement at around 4:30 p.m.

The break happened on Kent Street near Sidney Avenue, roughly two blocks from the edge of the neighborhood touching the Middle Branch, and close to the MTA Light Rail stop in Westport.

Kocher said it’s unknown what type of project BGE’s contractor was working on. Baltimore Fishbowl has reached out to the company for comment.

The sewer break adds insult to everlasting injury for Baltimore’s waterways after one of the rainiest months on record. While DPW and contractors have been working together for years to replace century-old pipes and modernize the city’s sewer system, it still contains structured outfalls that were designed long ago to let out mixed sewer and rain water when the pipes become inundated during storms.

A tally of wastewater leaks from DPW indicates more than 64 million gallons of sewage entered Baltimore’s streams and harbor from the start of Labor Day Weekend through the end of September. Around 6.4 million gallons came from outfalls and a leaking manhole in Southwest Baltimore on Friday, Aug. 31. Another 24.5 million gallons came from a storm on Sept. 9, 19 million gallons more came from post-Hurricane Florence storms on Sept. 18 and an additional 14.6 million gallons flowed out during storms last Thursday and Friday.

This story has been updated with new details from DPW to reflect that it was a contractor for BGE, not the company itself, that damaged the sewer main.

Ethan McLeod
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