Sewage Overflow Concerns Prompt Calls For Development Freeze In Jones Falls Area


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TOWSON - The Green Towson Alliance (GTA) is urging a pause on development approvals within Baltimore County's Jones Falls sewer shed.

In a letter addressed to the County Executive's Office and the Baltimore County Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT), the GTA has requested that all pending development applications be placed on hold until an independent review of the DPWT's policies and procedures is conducted.

The Jones Falls sewer shed caters to an estimated 67,000 Baltimore County residents, channeling waste from the broader region to the Back River treatment plant in Dundalk. GTA, along with various other advocates, contends that the current development approval process permits excessive construction without adequate sewage infrastructure in place.

Since 2012, approximately 2.5 million square feet of development has been established in the Jones Falls vicinity, and more projects are awaiting approval.

Maryland's legal framework mandates that waste be securely contained within the sanitary sewer system. However, the Jones Falls watershed's infrastructure, overwhelmed by its load, frequently results in raw sewage contaminating local water bodies, particularly during heavy rainfalls.

"For a span of ten years DPWT failed to disclose documents in a timely manner, took other actions that misled the public about deficiencies in the County's public sewerage facilities, and recommended approval of development that those facilities could not safely support. The review of the County's process for ensuring the adequacy of public sewerage facilities to support development cannot be entrusted to DPWT," Green Towson Alliance wrote in its letter.

A significant sewage spill incident in 2019 saw roughly 8.8 million gallons of polluted water released into the Herring Run in Northeast Baltimore, with the remainder affecting the Jones Fall watershed.

The pressing concern was recently underscored when an Administrative Law Judge denied a proposed development at Greenspring Station in July 2023 due to insufficient sewage conveyance capacities. A previous project, known as "the Bluestem project," faced similar rejection in 2019.

Baltimore County is on track to revise its Water Supply and Sewer Master Plan, aiming to submit it to the Maryland Department of the Environment in the coming months.

To date, GTA's statement has secured backing from seven community associations, including two prominent groups, Blue Water Baltimore and the Sierra Club Maryland Greater Baltimore Group.

The complete letter from the GTA is available here. 

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