Railway company CSX has removed the rotting planks and other material from a West Baltimore bridge whose falling debris injured a man. But the source of the water that continuously rains down from the bridge remains a mystery.
While publicly refusing to acknowledge the hazardous conditions that existed at the bridge, CSX dispatched a crew last week to strip out the ties, steel braces and loose wood that hung above the sidewalks on the 2600 block of West North Avenue.
Their handiwork left two gaping holes in the bridge, partly surrounded by a makeshift railing and signs that said, “CSX. No Trespassing.”
Also in the wake of The Brew’s coverage, the railroad installed “crack monitors” where a long, narrow split in the concrete has formed below the remaining railway track in use.
The monitors will measure the degree of separation occurring in the crack on the wall that holds up the north end of the bridge.
A dozen or so freight trains pass over the bridge every week.
Passing the Buck
Still unresolved: putting a stop to the heavy flow of water that runs off the bridge.
According to local residents, the water – apparently chlorinated “city” water – has been pouring out of a broken fiber optics cable attached to the bridge for at least the last year.
While conceding that they are aware of the leak, the following officials and agencies say they are currently relying on CSX (the bridge owner) and AT&T (the cable owner) to fix the water problem:
• Mayor Brandon Scott, who “looks forward to working with CSX to find a solution,” according to his spokesperson.
• District Councilman James Torrence, who says his queries to DPW were never satisfactorily answered after he first heard about the leak last April.
• Department of Public Works, operator of the water system, which has deferred all questions about the leak to CSX and the city Department of Transportation.
• Department of Transportation, which says it is “reaching out” to AT&T.
• Wachs Water Services, the city’s utility contractor, whose inspectors haven’t been able to find the source of the flow, which they say may come from a broken city main a mile or more away.
“You call 311. And 311 tells you to call this number. And it rings and rings. No one ever picks up.” – Charles Levi.
Such “buck-passing” has infuriated Charles Levi.
A trustee at the Mount Hebron Baptist Church, which lies immediately west (and downstream) from the bridge, Levi says he has been calling 311, as well as Torrence’s office, since last October.
“I don’t have any faith in the city anymore,” he said, reciting the routine he’s experienced at least a dozen times.
“You call 311. And 311 tells you to call this number. And it rings and rings. No one ever picks up. And if you do get a real person, they say, ‘Oh, it’s up to the railroad’ or, ‘Oh, you gotta check with DOT.’”
For CSX’s Neighbor: Dirty Water
Levi says he’s been so persistent because the church has been getting “dirty water” out of the city main ever since the leak began.
As the church’s maintenance supervisor, Levi says he must run all of the faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms for at least 15 minutes each week to get what appears to be clean water.
He also regularly replaces the diaphragms in the toilets or else they’ll get clogged with sediment.
“We have an older congregation. We have people who shouldn’t be subjected to these conditions.”
Because of the Covid pandemic, the church was not used by worshipers until recent weeks.
But with the church now holding socially distanced services for about 100 parishioners on Sunday, Levi worries that the water may pose a health risk.
“We have an older congregation. We have people who shouldn’t be subjected to these conditions. And what have we gotten back from the city for all this. Just a big water bill!”
He says the bill has increased to as much as $400 a month.
“And that’s me running the spigots to try to keep the lines clean.”
• To reach this reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org