On August 8, 2019, Green Towson Alliance (GTA) observed and documented clear evidence of a large sanitary sewer overflow in Lake Roland Park, including a broken manhole stack in the flood plain and sewage debris caught in area bushes knee deep. Lake Roland Nature Council told GTA they reported the overflow to the Baltimore County Department of Public Works. When the overflow was observed by GTA no repairs had begun, cleanup was not evident and stream warnings were not posted.
This large sewer spill in Lake Roland Park is a public health emergency. Baltimore County must notify park users and needs an immediate, coordinated, multi-agency response as well as a plan to prevent future overflows. GTA calls on Baltimore County to report the event as required by law to State and Federal regulators, identify and report its causes to the public, cleanup the site and make needed repairs immediately.
The capacity of the Lake Roland Interceptor (sanitary sewage collection pipe) located under Lake Roland was the focus of an August 2017 GTA White Paper, “Is Raw Sewage Contaminating our Neighborhood Streams? Analysis of the Jones Falls Sewershed.” The Lake Roland Interceptor has smaller capacity than three existing pipes and one planned relief sewer that feed into it. Analysis shows the interceptor has the potential to overflow during rainstorms and contaminate Lake Roland and downstream waters. While direct cause and effect linkage HAS NOT been determined, an overflow, such as predicted, did in fact occur.
Baltimore County is under a Consent Decree negotiated with the EPA in 2005 because of violations of the Clean Water Act and state pollution laws. The County was ordered to take all measures necessary to comply with those laws with a goal of eliminating all sanitary sewer overflows. Water testing and reporting of all overflows is required.
A 2012 consultant evaluation commissioned by Baltimore County recommended adding capacity to the Lake Roland Interceptor with a relief sewer as part of the Consent Decree work. Additional capacity would prevent sewer overflows during larger storms, like the ones Baltimore County is experiencing with increasing frequency. In fact, the consultant predicted this very manhole would overflow 1 million gallons in an intense storm. But Baltimore County’s Sewershed Plans do not address these overcapacity pipes under and around Lake Roland. See the Sewershed Repair, Replacement & Rehabilitation Plan and the 2017 County Water Supply and Sewerage Plan Update.
Baltimore County was given until March of 2020 to complete the 2005 Consent Decree work. Will their proposed remedies prevent sewage overflows in the Jones Falls Sewershed? Increased development, storm intensity and frequency are likely proving the County’s fixes to their sanitary sewage system are insufficient to keep our open waters clean. Sewage debris in a public park including exam gloves, condoms, feminine products, plastic bags and wipes seen on August 8th cannot be ignored.