Waterway Rehabilitation In the Jones Falls

The Waterfront Partnership and Blue Water Baltimore report gave the Jones Falls watershed a failing grade of 54, only slightly higher than Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The increased threat to the purity and safety of the Jones Falls watershed can be attributed primarily to the effects of runoff, as well as the negative effects on the ecosystem due to outdated sewers and storm management systems. Here, the development team at Bluestem discuss how thoughtful redevelopment will allow for improved water purity in both the Lake Roland and Jones Falls watersheds.

The Jones Falls Watershed Encompasses Baltimore County and Baltimore City

The Jones Falls watershed spans 40 square miles, including rural Baltimore County and parts of Baltimore City, and is home to more than 200,000 residents. The head of Jones Falls is located in Greenspring Valley and traverses downwards until it reaches an impoundment located in Lake Roland Park. After combining with tributaries, the waterway ultimately flows into Baltimore City’s Inner Harbor.

While the northernmost reaches of this watershed sustain an ample population of brown trout, the central and southernmost stretches of the Jones Falls watershed face a multitude of threats that wreak havoc on the delicate ecosystems surrounding it. For example, the Lake Roland watershed, which is encompassed by the Jones Falls watershed, faces various hazards that threaten the safety and purity of Lake Roland.

Action Plans Were Created to Improve the Quality of the Jones Falls Watershed

Over time, the Lake Roland watershed has experienced negative threats to its health and purity due to the adverse effects of persistent runoff and sewage leakage into the lake as a result of outdated water treatment systems. By improving the health of Lake Roland through the modernization of sewer and storm management facilities surrounding it, increased green space and revamped septic tank systems, the Jones Falls Waterway will ultimately improve as an indirect result of the revitalization of the Lake Roland watershed.

In the past few decades, there have been various efforts to help improve the overall quality of both the Lake Roland and Jones Falls Watershed. For example, there were action plans for these watershed locations developed in 1997, 2008 and 2015. These action plans were initiated to aid in the management of improved stormwater systems, repairment of outdated sewage and septic systems and management of runoff, as well as the protection and preservation of the natural, forested landscape.

Improvements in the Health of the Jones Falls Watershed Remain Necessary

In 1996, before the creation of the first action plan to improve the quality of the watershed areas, Jones Falls was found to be contaminated with excessive nutrients, pollutants and sediment as well as invasive elements such as copper, lead and zinc. Even after the first initiated action plan, the Jones Falls watershed continued to be contaminated with dangerous levels of fecal bacteria, as indicated in the 2002 assessment. These negative effects continued to impact the biological communities of the waterway in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Ultimately, while action plans have been repeatedly put in place to help mitigate the negative impacts of pollutants, sediment and unwanted toxins on the watershed areas, threats to the health and purity of the Jones Falls waterway and Lake Roland still remain.

The Jones Falls Watershed Tested Only Slightly Higher Than the Inner Harbor

While some improvements have been made, including the implementation of multiple action plans throughout the years, the Jones Falls waterway nevertheless still receives a failing grade from the Waterfront Partnership and Blue Water Baltimore report. Jones Falls, which received a failing grade of 54, is ranked only slightly better than the Inner Harbor at 51 on a 1-100 scale. The high levels of bacteria found in the watershed area, primarily caused by poor sewage management systems, can indicate the presence of disease-causing pathogens that are responsible for illnesses such as dysentery, Hepatitis A, typhoid fever and bacterial and viral gastroenteritis. Additionally, the excessive nitrogen and chlorophyll found in the water is linked to the growth of algae blooms and “dead zones” in waterways, which prevent local flora and fauna from surviving or thriving in these areas.

Bluestem Commits to Redevelopment of Outdated Water Treatment Systems

The primary reason believed to be precipitating the harmful environment in the Jones Falls watershed is runoff containing fertilizer and pesticide traces from residential lawns, as well as domesticated animal waste attributed to runoff from nearby farmland and leakage of human waste from outdated sewage systems. That is why the development team for Bluestem has extensively planned for the development of a multi-use village in the Bare Hills Community to maintain and enhance the surrounding ecosystem by implementing modern water treatment systems and revamping stormwater management systems. The restructuring and renovation of existing sewer and septic systems, along with the preservation of the natural, forested land surrounding Lake Roland, are necessary for improving the health and vitality of Baltimore County and Baltimore City’s waterways.

Protection of the Jones Falls and Lake Roland watersheds remain a top priority for the development team at Bluestem, and through mindful redevelopment, Bluestem aims to create a breakthrough multi-use complex that will bring revitalization to the Bare Hills Community while also improving the purity of surrounding waterways in the area. To learn more about Bluestem’s commitment to environmental preservation, click here.