Green Towson Alliance (GTA) and other advocates have challenged the sanitary sewage capacity in the Jones Falls Sewershed since 2016 and are convinced that raw sewage is fouling open waters while more development is being approved. A network of pipes run alongside and under our streams to carry raw sewage from our homes and businesses to treatment plants. The state of Maryland has laws that require the conveyance of this waste to be safely contained within the sanitary sewer system. But in Baltimore County’s Jones Falls watershed, the size and condition of these pipes is inadequate to prevent raw sewage from overflowing and fouling waters in our streams, lakes, and rivers, especially during heavy rainstorms. This is because stormwater enters pipes through defects and mixes with sewage in quantities that are greater than the pipes can accommodate. Overflows are a costly and dangerous threat to public health and aquatic life.
Both Baltimore City and County are under a Consent Decree to fix the causes of sanitary sewer overflows. The County has performed multiple engineering studies that consistently show a dangerous lack of capacity and how to fix it, but the resources to make those corrections have never materialized. Since the earliest of these studies in 2012, almost 2.5 million square feet of development have been added in the Baltimore County Jones Falls Sewershed and more development is in-line to be approved.
DPWT reviews each development proposal for adequate sanitary sewer, but they do not consider the volume of sewage during storms, as is required by the Maryland Department of the Environment. In Baltimore County, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) makes the final decision on approving new development. On July 31, 2023, the ALJ denied approval of Greenspring Station, a proposal for 61 new homes in the Jones Falls Sewershed because expert testimony proved that there were not adequate facilities to safely convey the sewerage to a treatment plant. This is the second development that was denied for this reason, (Bluestem was the first in 2019) but DPWT refuses to acknowledge the error in its methods.
During the next two months, Baltimore County will be amending its Water Supply and Sewerage Master Plan that they must submit to the Maryland Department of the Environment. GTA has submitted a statement to the Planning Board, County Council and County Executive’s Office requesting specific actions be taken to ensure that sanitary sewage does not overflow. Our statement calls for development approvals in the Jones Falls sewershed to be suspended until an independent review of information and methods used to approve new development and redevelopment for adequate sanitary sewer facilities is conducted and implemented.
Citizens should not have to hire attorneys and expert witnesses to be protected from sanitary sewer overflows! Everyone should be equally protected by environmental laws prohibiting sanitary sewer overflows. Importantly, all watersheds throughout the County will benefit from a correction to the information and methods used to review sanitary sewer adequacy for new development and redevelopments.
Seven community associations along with two umbrella community association groups have already endorsed the GTA statement. Blue Water Baltimore and Sierra Club Maryland Greater Baltimore Group have also signed-on.
The statement from the Green Towson Alliance Executive Committee can be found here.