News Feature | February 5, 2019

Baltimore Puts Sewer Overflow Details On Public, Interactive Map

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) continue to plague water systems around the country, forcing untreated wastewater into local waterbodies when sewer lines are overwhelmed with flow. In Baltimore, a new tool will help residents stay informed when SSOs occur.

Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) has released an interactive, online map that will post overflow information as soon as it’s available.

“This is showing [in] real time the SSOs occurring throughout the city,” Paul DeSantis, DPW’s chief of legal and regulatory affairs, told Fox 45. “You’ll be informed as the public at the same time MDE [Maryland Department of the Environment] would.”

By the time an overflow is indicated on the map, it will obviously be too late to avoid it. But with the real-time information in hand, local residents may be able to prepare for overflows that can breach their homes and will be aware of unsanitary wastewater flooding into their local water bodies.

The map will display overflows as large red dots in the location where they are occurring. It will also provide information on what bodies they are being discharged into and what the estimated flow sizes are. All known overflows will be shown and information about a given SSO is supposed to remain available on the map for four months.

Though SSOs are fairly common around the country, they are a particularly persistent problem in Baltimore, arising when stormwater infiltrates the sewer mains.

“In the city’s century-old system, the sewage overflows can be a feature, not a bug. According to the Baltimore Department of Public Works, the system is designed with structured overflows when sewers get too inundated,” according to “Other overflows are caused by blockages. The city is working to make repairs that will eliminate the overflows, with 83 percent of the overflows eliminated by the beginning of 2021.”

That deadline has been set as the first phase of a consent decree in the city. Overflow improvements are planned at the Back River Wastewater Treatment plant by then. But, in the meantime, the interactive map will serve as a critical tool for local residents.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.