In a park in West Baltimore, a spectacular arched stone bridge rises over a stream called the Gwynns Falls, which flows into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.
Although the bridge is beautiful and trees beside the stream are blossoming, when you look at the stream, you see that the Gwynns Falls is troubled. A whirpool of sludge twists under the bridge, with a gyre of Styrofoam cups and plastic bottles.
Alice Volpitta is the lead water quality scientist for Blue Water Baltimore, a nonprofit that is fighting to clean up this and other city waterways. She points to a sign and a sewer on the banks of the river.
“Baltimore City Department of Works has posted a temporary health warning sign next to this manhole to indicate there has recently been some sort of sewage overflow coming out of this manhole,” Volpitta said. “And if you get closer, you can smell the sewage.”