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Baltimore sewage

Why any storm could turn into a poo-storm in Baltimore



BALTIMORE (CIRCA via WBFF) — Baltimore's wettest year on record is 2018.

The heavy rain has been causing even more problems for Baltimore's sewage system.

According to a state database, Baltimore City has reported more than 189 million gallons of sewage overflows.

"We're talking about a lot of volume here. It's pretty significant when it comes to our waterways," said Alice Volpitta, lead water quality scientist with Blue Water Baltimore.

So, how much sewage is 189 million gallons?

Volpitta said: "Two-hundred-eighty-five Olympic-sized swimming pools or four Roman Colosseums full of raw sewage."

Any time heavy rains overwhelm the system, sewage overflows.

Maryland Street Sinking
CSX workers and first responders examine a section of of 26th Street as it continues to sink in Baltimore on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, after a day of heavy rain. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

With record rainfall this year and more tracking in place, the number is higher.

"It's exactly what you'd imagine human feces would smell like, and it was 4 inches high," homeowner Belle Burr said.

Blockages and backups also lead to nasty flooding in people's homes.

"From 2 a.m. Thursday morning until Sunday, actual-human-everything was coming up through our toilet, and the city basically kept saying, 'Well, it's on you,'" Burr said.

The basement in her Bel Air-Edison home has now been stripped in the clean-out.

"Our insurance is covering everything, but this is the city's fault, and the city needs to pay for it."
Belle Burr, Baltimore resident whose basement was flooded

Some of the family's priceless possessions are lost.

"We had things down here like my wedding dress, my husband's comic book collection; they're all gone. Our laundry room is gone. Our bathroom is gone. There was a sewage backup on the main city line," she said. "Our insurance is covering everything, but this is the city's fault, and the city needs to pay for it."

On Friday, the Department of Public Works proposed a 30-percent rate hike over the next three years to pay for infrastructure improvements to the city's water and sewer lines.

"These are things we must do. These are daily essential needs for our citizens," DPW director Rudy Chow said.

Burr's basement and the almost 200 million gallons of overflows reported this year highlight the definite need.

"But, for a lot of these overflows, it's just the best guess of the DPW employee who goes out and responds to these overflow points," Volpitta said. "So, likely the number we're seeing is an underestimation of the real number."

The city is in the middle of a $430 million project called Headworks at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

DPW told Circa sister station WBFF that project is on track to be completed by 2020.

Once finished, it should eliminate more than 80 percent of sewage overflows, DPW said.

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