Michael Woollen had seen it – and smelled it – before during heavy rains: sewage flowing into the Middle Branch at this spot, between the Gould Street Power Plant and TE Subcom where he works in Port Covington.
“When the thunderstorm started today, I looked over there to see if it would happen again,” said Woollen. “Sure enough, there it was.”
The engineer said he knew sewage was mixed into the gushing runoff because of the telltale odor.
“It was definitely smelly,” he said. “It subsided after a while.”
Woollen sent some photos and videos of the outflow to The Brew hoping to shine additional light on an issue that’s been in the news lately – Baltimore’s sewage backups into inland basements and repeated sewage spills into city waterways and Chesapeake Bay.
“Hopefully this can bring further attention to our aging infrastructure,” said Woollen, a sailor who noted that water around Port Covington can be crystal clear and filled with marine life.
“I actually saw a skate there. I saw him minutes before today’s storm,” he said. “I’ve seen eels, turtles and all kinds of stuff.”
Woollen noted the irony of the presence of the foul, fecal-scented discharge and the planned upscale project around the Port Covington waterfront.
The outfall is one property away from Sagamore Spirit, a distillery that Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is building as part of his Port Covington development.
“You’ve got all this stuff flowing here,” he remarked, “and right there is this planned multi-billion-dollar property.”
UPDATE: We asked Department of Public Works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond if this might be one of the city’s structured sanitary sewer overflows, designed to relieve pressure on the system by releasing sewage during rainstorms and he said it is not.
“There are no structured sanitary sewer overflows in this drainage area, or on that peninsula,” he said.
According to Raymond, the pipe where Woollen smelled the sewage yesterday is a stormwater outfall. Because of the poor condition of Baltimore’s infrastructure, stormwater and raw sewage often mingle, especially during times of heavy rainfall.