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Fresh Water, Foul Sewage

by Mark Reutter8:43 amJan 4, 20240

City to settle two cases of negligence and neglect by Baltimore DPW

A water pipe break that flooded the Howard Street Tunnel and an open pipe that had raw sewage flowing over machinery at the Back River treatment plant cost taxpayers nearly $300,000

Above: A southbound CSX freight train approaches the Howard Street Tunnel near Mt. Royal Avenue. (Mark Reutter)

Water and sewage going where it shouldn’t will cost Baltimore taxpayers nearly $300,000 as the city settles two commercial claims before they go to trial.

The break of an underground pipe at Mulberry and Howard streets, which flooded CSX’s Howard Street Tunnel on December 27, 2020, will be resolved with a $185,000 payout to the Florida-based company, to be formally approved by the Board of Estimates next week.

CSX alleges that the Department of Public Works was aware that water was leaking from the main, having been “put on notice” by the railroad, but failed to take corrective action, according to documents from the city law department.

Originally claiming $370,000 in damages to the track and tunnel structure, the railroad agreed to split the difference with the city to avoid protracted litigation.

Last July, the Board of Estimates approved a $245,000 damage payment to CSX after a similar incident in 2019, when another water main burst, causing the roadway surface at Howard and Pratt streets to collapse into the tunnel, derailing several cars of a passing freight train.

DPW later acknowledged that a prior inspection showed that water was entering the tunnel, but no remedial action was taken. The 130-year-old Howard Street Tunnel is currently being widened to accommodate “double-stack” container trains originating from the Port of Baltimore.

Raw Sewage at Back River

The city has also cut a deal with a New Jersey contractor whose equipment was damaged after DPW employees “negligently failed to close a connecting pipe” at the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant.

The incident occurred last January after G.M.H. Associates of America had completed the rehabilitation of a clarifier settling tank. The tank was filled with sewage, but a drainage valve going to a second tank, where the contractor had stored its equipment overnight, was left open.

The next morning a large crane, skid-steer loader and other machinery were found covered “with many feet of raw sewage,” according to the city law department, which negotiated a $97,500 settlement to partially reimburse the contractor for “the mishap.”

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