Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO)

Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) occur when there is a blockage or break in the sanitary sewer line causing wastewater to flow out of the collection system. They can occur either inside or outside of a home or building, in the middle of the street, or even near a stream. The blockage is most often caused by "Rags, Roots, and Grease."

If the overflow is outside, the wastewater may run into the nearest stormwater drain or stream causing contamination to the City's surface water and the Chesapeake Bay WatershedThe Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) is the responding city agency to all SSOs and depending on the flow volume will report the overflow to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD).  Signs are posted near waterways warning that urban streams are subject to pollutants and runoff and that contact with the water should be avoided. These signs are put in place by DPW crews while at the site of an SSO. DPW's Pollution Control section monitors the waterways periodically, conducting ammonia screening and stream impact sampling.

The Health Department warns all residents and visitors that contact with any stream or waterway in the city should be avoided due to potential contaminants. There should be no swimming or wading in the waterways. If you come into contact with the water you should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. If the contacted area has any open wounds or sores then you should seek advice from your healthcare provider.

With regard to fishing, there is a fish consumption advisory in effect for some area waterways which are identified at this link: Fish Consumption  Advisory (

To report an SSO please call 311 or you can report it using the Baltimore CitiTrack Service Request System online.

For more information about DPW's Bureau of Water & Wastewater, please visit their website.

Other Resources:

Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)
Waste Water Permits Program
Water Programs
Maryland's Stormwater Management Program
Wetlands and Waterways Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Water Quality & Testing