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Blue Water Baltimore: Fix City Sewers Now

The environmental group has filed a federal lawsuit to prevent Baltimore from getting an extension to repair its antiquated sewer system.

An overflowing Jones Falls rushes over a manhole cover during a story in September 2011. Credit: Adam Bednar
An overflowing Jones Falls rushes over a manhole cover during a story in September 2011. Credit: Adam Bednar


Blue Water Baltimore, a local nonprofit that fights to protect local bodies of water from pollution, wants to stop efforts to delay the deadline to repair city sewers.

The group filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday to prevent Baltimore from being granted an extension of a 2016 deadline to drastically reduce the amount of pollution entering waterways from the city's century-old sewer system, according to a news release.

"While the city has made some progress, much more remains to be done as raw sewage pollution continues to harm our waterways and public health." Blue Water Baltimore Executive Director Halle Van der Gaag said in the news release. "We believe Blue Water Baltimore's technical expertise and experience working closely with local communities is critical to effectively addressing this issue."

The city entered into a consent decree with the federal government in 2002 to avoid being sued because of the amount of pollution entering local waterways through the sewer system. The decree gave the city until 2016 to reduce the pollution from its sewers, but officials have reportedly been seeking to push that deadline back. 

The city has made strides in upgrading its sewer system, such as replacing a 54-inch sewer line between Cresmont Avenue and Barclay Street in 2006, and replacing water mains along Falls Road near Mt. Washington last year.

But incidents, such as an eight-inch pipe breaking and gushing 50 to 100 gallons of sewage a minute into the Stony Run, continue to foul city streams and rivers.

According to Blue Water Baltimore, more than 7 million gallons of raw sewage has been allowed to enter city waterways. The organization also accuses the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency of failing to enforce the consent decree.   

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