DPW Moves to Address Sanitary Sewer Overflows

Press Release



Although the recent weeks’ heavy rains have tested local sewer systems, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is making progress on major projects to improve its sewer infrastructure and continues to encourage residents to take steps to keep their drains clean. Most recently, a June 4, 2018, sanitary sewer overflow of 28,600 gallons of stormwater mixed with sewer water was released through a manhole at 4403 Frederick Ave. This overflow was due to heavy rain, trash/debris, rags, sand, gravel and rocks. Others were caused by structured overflow releases designed into the system 100 years ago. These are being eliminated.

 Capital Projects:

DPW’s projects to improve the City’s aging sewer infrastructure are on track and are anticipated to significantly reduce sewer overflows.  When the Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant goes into operation by the end of 2020, the $430 million project will eliminate more than 80 percent of the volume of sewage overflowing the City’s aged sanitary sewer system, and keep Baltimore’s homes, streets, streams, and harbor cleaner.

“The Headworks project, coupled with the Enhanced Nutrient Removal projects, could probably be classified as the most proactive, positive water quality initiatives ever undertaken in the State of Maryland," said DPW Director Rudolph S. Chow, P.E.

 A Healthier Harbor:

Harbor Heartbeat, a new report produced by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore as part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, found that fecal bacteria levels in Baltimore’s streams and Harbor substantially improved in 2017. Sewer repairs in the City and County are ongoing and there has been a 20 percent reduction in the number of reported sewer overflows since 2015, according to the report, which was released May 28, 2018, and tracks annual progress being made toward the restoration of the Baltimore Harbor.

 Everyone Must Be Involved:

In addition, the recent heavy rains that have triggered sewer overflows reinforce the importance of keeping City sewer drains free of fats, oils and grease (FOG) and non-flushable items.

  • Do not put FOG down the drain.
  • During food preparation and cleanup, pour unused grease from the “pan to the can.” Once it solidifies in an empty can, put it in the trash.
  • Do not flush “flushable” wipes; put them in the trash instead. Wet wipes don’t break down in water and create sewer blockages.
  • The only items that should be considered flushable are poo, pee, and toilet paper.

Expedited Reimbursement Program:

Citizens who experience basement sewage backups as a result of rain events are encouraged to take advantage of the City’s Expedited Reimbursement Program (ERP).  This program is to reimburse residents and property owners for cleanup costs related to sewage backups caused by wet weather.  Application and eligibility information can be found at this link https://publicworks.baltimorecity.gov/sewer-consent-decree/building-backups.

HomeServe USA Emergency Protection Plan:

In addition, in 2014, DPW partnered with HomeServe USA to offer Baltimore City residents water and sewer line repair plans to cover emergencies not covered by basic homeowners insurance plans.  Information on HomeServe plans offered to Baltimore City residents is available at https://www.homeserveusa.com/utility-partners/our-valued-partners/baltimore.

For additional information and other tips on protecting your pipes, visit publicworks.baltimorecity.gov.

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Jeffrey Raymond
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Kurt Kocher
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Jennifer Combs
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After hours, weekends, or holidays please call 410-396-3100 for the duty officer

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works supports the health, environment, and economy of our City and region by cleaning our neighborhoods and waterways and providing its customers with safe drinking water and sustainable energy practices.