Harbor fails yearly report card, crumbling sewage infrastructure blamed

Written by on May 18, 2016 in Featured, Uncategorized - No comments
| Photo courtesy of Healthy Harbor Initiative

| Photo courtesy of Healthy Harbor Initiative

Another year, another failing grade for the Inner Harbor.

Last week, the Healthy Harbor Initiative, a project through the Waterfront Partnership, released its yearly report card where it grades the quality of Baltimore’s waterways.

The water of the Baltimore Harbor, which runs from the Inner Harbor to the Canton Waterfront before funneling into the Patapsco River, received an F from the non-profit.

The study tests the water’s bacteria levels, water conductivity and clarity, and the amount of dissolved oxygen which is an essential component for sustaining marine life.

High levels of fecal bacteria are credited for the Harbor’s failing grade.

Leanna Wetmore, the Community Coordinator for the Waterfront Partnership, explained that the Harbor is so dirty due to large amounts of fecal bacteria that enter the water through sewage outposts.

“There is a lot of infrastructure problems that led to this,” said Wetmore.

This infrastructure she speaks of is between 80 to 100 years old and the sewer lines are often cracked, leaking, and unable to handle heavy water flow.

For example, in March, the Department of Public Works revealed that over 12 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater were released into the Inner Harbor during one weekend of heavy rainfall.

“High bacteria levels are due to storm-induced sewer overflows, leaking sewer pipes and chronic dry weather sewage discharge from the storm drain system,” states the Initiative’s report card.

Since the century-old sewer system is unable to hold such large amounts of sewage, some of it is released through outflow posts that feed directly into the Harbor.

Wetmore also mentioned a ten-mile sewage back-up that runs beneath East Baltimore which has devastating, city-wide consequences, because it further limits sewer capacities leading to increased overflows.

The Healthy Harbor Initiative has been aiming for a swimmable and fishable Harbor by 2020. While the current numbers aren’t promising, they are still committed to the goal.

“This document makes it clear that Baltimore is working harder than ever at all levels to restore our streams and harbor. Now is not the time to be discouraged by failing grades, now is the time to triple our efforts to move forward with the knowledge that it can be done,” said Adam Linquist, Waterfront Partnership’s manager. “It is definitely still achievable, but a lot more work has to be done. With three years of data this is the baseline of the Baltimore harbor and the health of our streams and harbor right now. To get to 2020, we will need to see a significant increase in what is being done and see more innovation and support from the public.”

One of these ongoing efforts is the installation of a second trash wheel in the Harris Creek Watershed to accompany the first wheel currently in the Inner Harbor.

Wetmore said that this location was chosen because approximately 5000 pounds of trash enter the through that waterway every month.

“After we get a new trash wheel there, we’ll know more about the types of trash, how much of it is actually going in there, and hopefully, we’ll be capturing it,” said Wetmore.

The second wheel is 80% to its $550,000 fundraising goal. Wetmore is optimistic and believes the wheel will be funded within the next year.

For more information on the 2015 Healthy Harbor Report Card, visit www.baltimorewaterfront.com/healthy-harbor/report-card.

By Gianna DeCarlo

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