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Critical Infrastructure News

More than 20,000 gallons of raw sewage released into Baltimore waterways over weekend

More than 20,000 gallons of untreated wastewater poured into Baltimore's waterways this weekend due to leaks and rainwater flooding the sewer system, the Department of Public Works said Monday.

Sunday's rain flooded the city's sewer system late in the evening, and an engineered structure at Charles and Lanvale streets released more than 10,000 gallons of raw waste into the Jones Falls in Baltimore to prevent backups, public works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said. Raymond called the sewage spill a "brief episode as a result of water infiltrating these old sewer lines."

The other major sewage dump, in the 1500 block of North Chapel Street in Broadway East, was leaking an estimated 10 gallons per minute Monday morning into storm drains that eventually run to the harbor, Raymond said. It had leaked more than 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage as of Monday, and while it was discovered late last week, Raymond said, the city has been unable to determine what caused it or how to fix it.  State and federal regulators in June agreed to give Baltimore another five years to repair and replace cracked and aging portions of its sewer system to prevent raw sewage from pouring into its waterways.

The city spent $867 million on repairs over the past 14 years, but rain still frequently washes raw sewage into the Patapsco River, making it unsafe for swimming and at times uninhabitable for wildlife.  On Monday, an 8-inch water main broke just before 5 a.m. in Parkville, prompting two blocks to be closed: the 3400 block of Northwind Road and the 3500 block of Fontaine Drive.

Source: Baltimore Sun

Army engineers move boulders to prevent future Ellicott City floods

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to wrap up several days of moving tons of debris from Ellicott City’s waterways Monday to reduce the risk of future flooding in the historic Howard County town. Using excavators and other heavy machinery, the Corps has been moving boulders and concrete chunks from tributaries of the Patapsco River that overflowed during the July 30 storm.  If the debris were not removed, it would mean more water accumulating during future storms, causing more flooding risk from just half an inch of new rainfall, the Corps told the Baltimore Sun.  In addition to 50 cars, the floodwaters pushed about 50 tons of debris into three tributaries, raising the chance of waters overflowing the riverbanks.  Spokesman Chris Gardner says the work began Friday, with most of the heavy lifting Saturday. Heavy rains Sunday prevented more work on site, but Gardner said the project is expected to wrap up by Monday evening.

Source: WTOP

Baltimore to get $20M in grants to stop sewer overflows

Baltimore will get more than $20 million in grants to help prevent sanitary sewer overflows. Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved the Bay Restoration Fund grants on Wednesday. The Maryland Department of the Environment said in a news release that the grants will help Baltimore improve the existing sanitary sewer infrastructure in the Patapsco and Herring Run sewersheds. The board also approved nearly $1.4 million in loans and grants to extend water service in Lonaconing in Allegany County.  Approval was also given to a $300,000 revolving loan grant to Allegany County to help fund the Creek Road Water Distribution Project.

Source: WTOP

NICU at Md. hospital closed after discovery of potentially fatal bacteria

The neonatal intensive care unit at Prince George’s Hospital Center was temporarily shut down Tuesday after the discovery of potentially deadly bacteria in nasal swabs of three infant patients, hospital officials said.  Nine babies were being transferred from the hospital in Cheverly, Md., to the NICU at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington “out of an abundance of caution,” said Delores Butler, a spokeswoman for Dimensions Healthcare Systems, the nonprofit entity that runs hospitals in Prince George’s County.  Those transfers were expected to be completed by Tuesday night.

Source: The Washington Post

The Prince George's Hospital Center released the following statement in response of the discovery: 

"Prince George’s Hospital Center (PGHC) has begun a process to transfer the 9 current patients in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to other hospitals due to three recent positive patient surveillance cultures for the presence of bacterium Pseudomonas.  While three current neonatal patients tested positive for the presence of the organism in the process of vigilant surveillance protocols, all are clinically asymptomatic for any active infection with the bacterium.  Pseudomonas is caused by strains of bacteria found widely in the environment; the most common type causing infections in humans is called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. 

PGHC has been in active consultation with public health authorities, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, and is acting out of an abundance of caution in the best interest of our most vulnerable patient population.  We have been monitoring all NICU patients very closely for several days.  The positive patient culture results are limited to the NICU at this time.

The hospital is working collaboratively with public health authorities as well as epidemiology and infection control experts from the Prince George’s County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine to identify the root cause of the Pseudomonas and to help prevent future exposures. 

Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of all of our patients and their families, as well as our valued team of caregivers.  We realize that this situation is a source of concern to families, staff and the community.  All parties should be assured of our commitment to manage this transfer process and concurrent investigation as smoothly as possible, and to provide many layers of support. 

We acknowledge that there are many questions and concerns about this matter, and we will work diligently to answer them thoroughly and thoughtfully.  While the investigation into the positive bacterium cultures is ongoing by qualified experts, our top immediate priority is the safe and efficient transfer of patients and providing support to our NICU families and staff. 

We look forward to resuming admissions to the NICU very soon and returning it to full service for our community." 

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission also released a statement regarding the discovery at PGHC:

In light of the recent story involving the presence of bacterium Pseudomonas at Prince George’s Hospital Center (PGHC), WSSC is providing its water quality sampling protocol and latest results.  The Commission has a strict testing protocol for water, which includes the collection of water samples from 90 locations across the two counties on a weekly basis.  The nearest regular sampling location to PGHC is a few minutes away in Cheverly.  A water sample was collected on August 3, 2016.  The sample showed the chlorine residual to be within the required regulations.  There were no coliform bacteria detected in any of the WSSC samples.  WSSC does not test specifically for the presence of bacterium Pseudomonas but does test for total coliform.  WSSC has reached out to the Prince George’s County Health Department to provide assistance.  In its 98-year history, WSSC has never had a drinking water quality violation.

Raw sewage flows into Patuxent

Health officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties issued health warnings Saturday, July 30 after a sewage spill was reported Friday. The incident reportedly resulted in the spillage of approximately 2 million gallons of raw sewage into the Patuxent River.  According to county government officials in both affected jurisdictions posted signs Friday afternoon, July 29 telling people to stay out of the river and avoid swimming and fishing until further notice.  The Baltimore Sun reports the sewage line that spewed the filth into the river is connected to the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant, which serves more than half of Howard County’s population.

A Washington, DC radio station, WTOP, quoted a Howard County spokeswoman as saying a large collection of grease blocked the normal sewage flow, resulting in the spill. The grease was likely an accumulation from several household drains where residents pour cooking grease down kitchen sink drains.  Public works crews from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission are working to flush the tainted material from the water.


Source: The BayNet