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Fresh Water, Foul Sewage

Environmentby Mark Reutter7:53 pmMay 30, 20230

750 fish found dead in Roland Run in Riderwood

What killed the fish has not yet been determined, says MDE, after “tons of them” were seen floating at the start of the holiday weekend

Above: Roland Run today, looking south from the Essex Farm Road bridge. (Mark Reutter)

The Maryland Department of the Environment confirmed late today that an estimated 750 fish were killed in Roland Run, north of Joppa Road in Riderwood, before the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

The cause of the fish kill has not yet been determined, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson told The Brew, saying that “our investigator noted bleached algae, and a subsequent field test showed low levels of chlorine.”

On Friday, Blue Water Baltimore’s Pollution Reporting Hot Line received calls from local residents about dead fish floating in the stream near Essex Farm Road and West Joppa Road, according to Alice Volpitta, lead water quality scientist for the environmental advocacy group.

Volpitta sent a specialist to the site, who “found tons of them” in the waterway, which flows into Lake Roland and then empties into the city via the Jones Falls.

Bleach-like Substance

A local resident told The Brew that several rocks in the stream had a bleach-like substance on them.

BWB contacted MDE on Friday evening, which sent out an inspector on Saturday, who estimated the number of dead fish and noted evidence of bleach.

“The Water and Science Administration compliance program is investigating,” Apperson said in an email. “Reports for the fish kill and compliance program inspection are in the works but have not been completed.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Notice at potential recurring sewer outflows near the entrance to Lake Roland Park. (Mark Reutter)

Public notice of potential sewer overflows near the pedestrian entrance to Lake Roland Park, whose waters are fed by Roland Run and the upper Jones Falls. (Mark Reutter)

E. Coli Contamination

The site of the fish kill is near underground sewer pipes that environmental groups have long said are inadequate to handle the flow of wastewater generated by the residential buildup of downtown Towson and other local areas.

Last Thursday, the Baltimore County Council amended the 2023 Basic Service Map to designate the sewer lines near West Joppa Road and Falls Road as “an area of deficiency,” which could potentially halt development in the vicinity.

Green Towson Alliance and a number of retired engineers and planners had told the Council that the aging pipes cannot handle the volume during heavy rainfalls and overflow, sending high levels of sewage water into Lake Roland.

In 2019, a county administrative law judge rejected a plan for a residential development at Bare Hills, just west of Lake Roland, describing the sewer system as “woefully inadequate to handle existing demand, much less additional inputs from recently approved development in the Towson area.”

On May 3, E. coli levels at Lake Roland reached 435 per MPN – or over four times the safe limit.

The Paw Point Dog Park was closed to prevent animals from jumping into the lake, which is off limits to human bathers and ice skaters year-around.

To contact a reporter: reuttermark@yahoo.com

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