Sewage overflow in Baltimore due to "Fatberg"

Posted at 11:25 PM, Sep 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-25 23:25:21-04

After a recent sewer overflow, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is reminding residents what can and cannot go down the drain.

On Thursday a dry-weather sewer overflow occurred discharging nearly 1.2 million gallons of waste into the Jones Falls at North Charles and West Lanvale Streets. This was the second time in as many weeks that a sewer overflow occurred so DPW decided to explore the sewer in that area to determine what is causing the problem.

A camera was sent into the sewer and soon discovered the walls of the sewer pipe had a fatberg, clumps of fats, oils, grease and other items that do not break down in sewer systems. The buildup inside the pipe was so thick that it slowed sewer water moving through that area.

Engineers estimate that 85% of the pipe, which is more than 100 years old, was blocked. The City's sewers are now being repaired and replaced to avoid infiltration of stormwater. The affected area will be closed once a project to eliminate a restriction at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is completed in late 2020.

DPW has a fats, oils, and grease (FOG) program in effect which monitors restaurants waste disposal. However, private residences are not subject to the same regulations but should still take steps to keep fats, oils and grease and non-flushable items out of the sewer system and prevent costly overflows. Here are a few simple tips to remember:

  • Do not put any FOG down the drain; pour in a can and toss in the trash once it hardens.
  • Do not flush "flushable" wipes; put them in the trash instead.
  • The only items that should be considered flushable are poo, pee, and toilet paper. 

For additional information and other tips on protecting your pipes, visit the Baltimore City Department of Public Works website.