Infrastructure or Nature?

Author: Sarah Taggart, Hydrogeologist lll

A Homeowner in a dense residential area, located North of Baltimore City, Maryland, experienced a basement flood in 2012 and then again in 2015, but had not experienced flooding issues previously. After both floods, the homeowner decided to upgrade their sump pits and deepen their French drain systems, in hopes to prevent any flooding in the future. Following the upgrade, the sump pumps continued to discharge more often than normal and since the sump pits were chronically refilling, the basement was under constant threat of inundation. This ultimately led the Homeowner to assume that the source was leaking from City infrastructure and proceeded in suing the City of Baltimore for flood-related damages.  

The City of Baltimore conducted various studies in an attempt to verify the homeowner assertion and to abate the water source, yet the results were inconclusive and somewhat misleading.  The City of Baltimore then sought-out assistance from Advanced Land & Water, a Barton & Loguidice company (ALW-B&L) in uncovering an explanation. Once engaged and made familiar with prior efforts by the City, ALW-B&L collected and analyzed water quality samples for a diverse list of forensic analytes, and designed and oversaw shallow excavations and sampled temporary monitoring wells constructed in test pits. In light of the lawsuit and the upcoming trial, careful planning was necessary during this investigation to ensure all possible sources were evaluated from multiple angles. In particular, in-depth research and a diverse sampling parameter list were required to debunk various previous theories and interpretations made by others. 

The ALW-B&L team concluded that the water entering the residents’ basement was of natural origin. This was largely based on the water quality results, in person observations, the hydrogeologic setting and correlations with nearby comparative data. No acute leakage of City infrastructure was necessary to explain the data. When the case went to trial earlier in 2019, our firm’s compelling expert testimony convinced a jury to find for the City of Baltimore.

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