Why is Sewage Overflowing in Baltimore?

More rain in Baltimore means more wastewater in basements and in the street. Here’s why.

Why is Sewage Overflowing in Baltimore?

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Story Transcript

JENNIFER KUNZE: The sewage, you can definitely smell it after a large rainstorm if you go by the outfall sites. It’s definitely hazardous to people’s health, and hazardous to wildlife and water quality. You get a lot of fecal bacteria in sewage, of course. These [overflow pipes] were part of the design of our sewer system when it was put in place about one hundred years ago. And they were really a design feature in order to stop sewage from backing up into people’s homes.

One of the major problems that we see is sewage ending up in people’s homes with basement backups or backups through toilets, and that’s a major health problem, especially in neighborhoods where that’s happening again and again and again- of people being exposed to fecal bacteria, having to deal with a health hazard and cost of cleaning up their home from all of the sewage.

So, [the consent decree] is legal agreement with higher government authorities, outlining steps and a timeline that the city needs to follow in order to come into compliance with the law, in this case, come into compliance with the Clean Water Act. The [reimbursement agreement] will help people with costs, only up to twenty-five hundred dollars, for cleanup when a basement backup happens. But that won’t cover cleanup costs above twenty-five hundred dollars, and it also won’t cover property loss.