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Baltimore County Health Department warnings

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Due to recent power outages, Hurricane Irene has wreaked havoc on the local environment. Many residents have experienced downed trees and other damage to their yards and local waterways.

The Baltimore County Health Department has announced hazardous conditions due to numerous sewage overflows from local sewage treatment plants. Local waterways and beaches have been negatively impacted!

With the Labor Day holiday weekend upon us, many local residents had plans to visit local beaches such as Hammerman Beach on the Gunpowder, Hawks Cove at Rocky Point Beach and others. However, news reports have surfaced that approximately 16.5 million gallons of raw sewage has been pouring into local waterways, including Back River, the Patapsco River and others.

The following details have been released by the Baltimore County Health Department:

Pumping Stations – southeast side:

Delmar overflow was 1.94 million gallons;

Fort Howard had about 59,000 gallons;

Chesapeake Terrace had 42,000 gallons;

Hyde Park had 39,400 gallons;

Messeth Avenue only 2,000 gallons.

In all, 12 pumping stations reported an overflow of varying degrees.

Raw sewage is fed into pumping stations from underground pipelines for all 12 stations. The process of pumping the sewage was interrupted when the stations lost electrical power. Power was restored to the stations by Sunday night. By late Monday evening, news was being released about the overflows for the first time.

According to the Baltimore County Department of Health's website the Back River, southwest of Route 702, was on a list of potentially hazardous waterways that "may be degraded by surface run-off and potential sewage overflows resulting from power outages and heavy rains associated with Hurricane Irene.”

This slow release of information angered several local environmental enthusiasts of the Back River Restoration Committee. Volunteers were angered because the county is fully aware of the dedication of their organization and knew that people would be diligently cleaning debris from the river, putting them at risk due to the exposure of the raw sewage.

On August 31, the health department spokesperson, Monique Lyle, said that Back River's water sampling results did not indicate the need for advisories or alerts. The website's standard warning stated: only persons with open cuts or wounds or whose health is compromised should avoid contact with cloudy and debris-strewn waters.

However, the Gunpowder River water sampling did indicate higher than safe levels and therefore the beach was closed and will remain closed until the next within-safe-limits water testing results are received.

People living on the water, working on the water or planning to visit a local beach this weekend should always check the Baltimore County website for alerts, warnings and closing: click here