Woodberry’s secret sewage-spewing pipe was leaking again for the last week, sending 20,000 gallons into the Jones Falls

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The Jones Falls near Union Avenue in Woodberry.

A troublesome private sewer line in Woodberry has once again leaked tens of thousands of gallons of human waste into the Jones Falls, after a temporary fix installed by the city a year ago stopped working for the last week.

The leak, announced in October 2017 by the Department of Public Works to have been happening inside a secret pipe within a much larger city storm drain, had been stopped for the better part of the last 12 months, after city crews installed a pump to bypass the sewage into a city sewer line nearby. But the pump stopped working on Oct. 17.

And over the last seven days, it leaked out two gallons of sewage per minute, or roughly 20,000 gallons in all, before crews fixed the pump.

It’s “since been replaced, tested and confirmed to be fully functional,” DPW said in a release today.

Residents of the North Baltimore neighborhood had complained for years of a foul odor and discolored water in the Jones Falls where it runs beneath the Union Avenue bridge connecting Woodberry to Hampden.

Upon finding heightened ammonia levels in the water—after years of complaints and 311 calls—DPW found the source was a private sewer line, illegally installed in 1917 roughly 400 feet within a 50-inch city sewer main, and running from the former Hooperwood Cotton Mills complex right into the waterway. The pipe had been cut, allowing sewage to flow freely.

The address for the complex, now inhabited by a cross fit gym, furniture and clothing makers and artist or design studios, is 3500 Parkdale Avenue.

DPW had told outlets it would pursue a short-term fix—like a bypass pump—and that the long-term goal would be to remove the illegal pipe. “A longer-range remedy will be the removal of the sewer line from inside the storm drain,” the agency said last October.

Spokesman Kurt Kocher said in an email Friday morning, roughly one year later, that the bypass bump that broke last week (and has since been repaired) is the same one put in place last year as a temporary fix.

“We are looking at a long-term solution,” he said, adding, “We don’t have any more details on that right now.”

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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