A Temporary Loss of Water in Baltimore County Teaches Important Lessons

A 20-inch water main caused over 24 hours of problems for northern Baltimore County residents in the Sparks and Mays Chapel neighborhoods, many of which who were left without running water for over a full day. While not the most dire of emergencies, the water main breakage was an important example of how easily the water supply can shut off, and what you should do in case of such an emergency.



“It’s not easy. You can’t even wash your hands,” said Joann Koch of Timonium.


“When we were trying to make bottles, the water started getting slower,” explains a 7-year-old Baltimore County boy as his house slowly lost water pressure.


On Monday, June 20th, the water main ruptured at 12:30 a.m., displacing the soil beneath the roadway and causing a gigantic sinkhole to form that was wider than one full lane. The road is expected to reopen by Monday, June 27th – just in time for the new work week – but in that short time frame, many Baltimore County residents have learned important survival and conservation strategies that will hopefully last a lifetime.


The source of the problem, besides the water main break on York Road, was the loss of water in the Mays Chapel water tower. The Department of Public Works crews scrambled to refill the tower with water from nearby Towson reservoirs. Once the Mays Chapel water tower was filled, the Sparks water tower levels evened out shortly thereafter.


In the meantime, Baltimore County officials went door-to-door with water to deliver to impacted areas. They also opened the Baltimore County Fire Department Station 17 to the general public so that they could fill up their own containers with as much water as needed. Finally, officials brought bottled water to Broadmead retirement home residents, unaware that management had brought in about 5 thousand gallons of bottled water themselves. Either way, on that day, Baltimore County residents learned that in the event of a water shortage, they should remain calm and wait for a local government response.


Other businesses, however, were not so lucky. With the restaurants closed early, the food that had already been prepared went to complete and total waste. Kooper’s North restaurant, for example, may have incurred a five figure loss due to spoiled meats. Restaurants were not the only businesses inconvenienced by the lack of water. A salon at Mays Chapel had to reschedule the majority of its appointments, though some of the savvier customers brought their own water for salon workers to use.


Service was fully restored to all Baltimore County residents by 8 a.m., Wednesday. Nonetheless, many important lessons were learned by all.


“I never realized how much my life depended on running water,” remarks area woman, Kitty Turnbaugh.


Just how much do Maryland residents depend on water? The Maryland Department of the Environment estimates the average Marylander to use nearly 100 gallons of water every day on basic activities such as bathing and personal hygiene, and up to 200 gallons of water per day if there are any leaks present in their home.


While there is not much you can do to prevent a water main from breaking, the Maryland Department of the Environment has plenty of tips to help minimize your water consumption. For example, instead of leaving the faucet on until the water turns cold, you should refrigerate a pitcher of drinking water to minimize the waste. If you really want to conserve water (and your water bill in return), be sure to retrofit or replace your showerheads and faucets with “low-flow” water-conserving appliances. Following these tips will ensure that there is plenty of water to spare for other communities in their time of need.

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