Baltimore County Department of Public Works employees have capped an overflow pipe that caused about 200 gallons of sewage to spill into a tributary of the Middle River near the Middle River Bridge adjacent to the Hawthorne community.
"It's a complicated thing from a number of different angles," Public Works spokesman David Fidler said Tuesday. "There was some sort of utility work by the county being done on a sewer line in that area, and the spill appears to have come from an overflow pipe."
The spill is estimated to be about 200 gallons, which Fidler said is "very, very small."
The department is required by law to issue a statement and notify media outlets and the public when a spill is 10,000 gallons or more, Fidler said.
"We have a number of these small spills and it would be impossible to notify everyone of all of these," he said.
The "one-time" occurrence has been traced to an overflow pipe, and the pipe has been capped to prevent future leaks, according to Fidler.
The Baltimore County Health Department is aware of the spill and was preparing to issue a water contact alert on its website, according to Fidler.
Samples were taken for testing, and results should be available in the next couple of days, according to the public works spokesman.
Water alerts are typically associated with sewage overflows and are issued when dangerous levels of bacteria are present, according to the health department's website.
Fidler said the alert was being issued without those results just to be safe over the Fourth of July holiday when more people are typically on the area's waterways.
Health department officials offer the following tips for recreational waterway users:
- Be observant for cloudy or discolored water in streams, rivers, or the bay, and of waters that are laden with debris. Water quality may have been negatively impacted.
- Do not drink stream water.
- Avoid contact with potentially contaminated water if you have open cuts or bandaged wounds. If accidental contact with contaminated water occurs, wash any damaged skin areas as soon as possible.
- Minimize hand to mouth contact and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching food.