A 15-month investigation by the Green Towson Alliance (GTA) into Baltimore County’s sewer system has uncovered major problems in Towson and west of Towson, including bacteria levels in local streams that feed into Lake Roland that indicate probable sewage leaks during heavy rainstorms. GTA volunteers who have extensive experience in water resources, infrastructure planning, sewer contracting and quantitative analysis launched this investigation after receiving reports of possible raw sewage in the Towson Run as it approaches Lake Roland.
Baltimore County is under a 2005 Consent Decree settling federal EPA and MDE charges of violations of The Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. Baltimore County paid fines and is required to take all measures to comply with these laws with a goal to eliminate all sanitary sewer overflows.
Sewage spills occur when the sewer pipes back up during heavy rain storms. Storm water enters the sewer lines from multiple sources including deficient manholes, broken pipes and illegal connections to roof drains and sump pumps.
GTA has learned that Baltimore County is planning to construct a Towson Run relief sewer, which would parallel the current Towson Run sewer and connect with two other sewer pipes into a 60-year old, 42-inch diameter, 3000-foot long sewer line that runs directly beneath Lake Roland. GTA is concerned that this sewer pipe under Lake Roland will be unable to handle the increased capacity. Regular testing by Blue Water Baltimore of the water in Towson Run, Roland Run, the Upper Jones Falls and Lake Roland frequently shows medium to high levels of enterococcal fecal bacteria. According to the Lake Roland Nature Council, the dog park was closed for a couple of days in June because of high bacteria levels. GTA investigators documented the presence of several deficient manholes near Lake Roland from which raw sewage spills may occur, especially during heavy rainstorms.
GTA is concerned that Baltimore County is planning to build a Towson Run relief sewer, which would be very costly, cut down many healthy trees, and greatly impact wetlands and flood plains, instead of taking more cost-effective measures to eliminate the infiltration and inflow of storm water in the current Towson Run sewer pipe. Baltimore County has told GTA that the Towson Run relief sewer is needed to accommodate increased sewer flows from Towson Row, Towson University and other development projects.
The Green Towson Alliance believes the public has a right to know when dangerous levels of bacteria are present in local streams and Lake Roland because of stormwater inflows causing raw sewage spills. GTA also questions whether all County taxpayers should be funding the rapid growth and heavy infrastructure investment currently plotted for Towson, and benefiting perhaps a relative few. Would shared funding strategies and community involvement result in smarter growth and more cost-effective problem-solving with our sewerage?
The GTA report, “Is Raw Sewage Contaminating Our Neighborhood Streams? Analysis of the Jones Falls Sewershed” can be found at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byrd2wLiw1deWXMzX2lmSkxUTmc/view?usp=sharing
The Green Towson Alliance unites Towson area environmentalists to achieve a greener, healthier, more beautiful community through collaboration and activism.