The Department of Public Works said in February that it was going to repair the sinkhole that formed around Lake Montebello by early spring.

Perhaps someone should have asked which year.

Based on conversations Councilwoman Odette Ramos said she had with the department, she predicted residents should not expect the sinkhole to be repaired until spring of 2024. DPW had previously told The Baltimore Banner it was hoping to fix the sinkhole by April of this year, at the time at a cost of $10 million.

Ramos, whose district includes the reservoir, said the department did not provide her a firm timeline and that her estimate is based on updates and conversations with DPW officials. Jennifer Combs, a spokesperson for DPW, said a contractor is conducting “additional geotechnical field testing” and will have a better idea of the repair schedule next week. But for now, it’s unclear when the sinkhole will be filled, and Ramos said the situation is volatile.

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“The initial timelines, you know, may not have considered all the factors that needed to be dealt with,” including weather delays and the pace of repairs, Ramos said in an interview with The Banner. She also addressed the issue in a recent newsletter for constituents.

Several months before the sinkhole formed at the Montebello I Water Treatment Plant last November, city inspectors found that a portion of the 140-year-old storm drain beneath the road had collapsed, Timothy Wolfe, chief of engineering and construction at DPW, told The Banner earlier this year. Wolfe said then that it was hard to pinpoint the reasons the sinkhole appeared. The city closed the area, blocking it to vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists can still walk, just not all the way around the lake. The city also removed the disc golf course to make sure no one tries to go to the area, Ramos said.

In December of 2022, the city placed a temporary 48-inch water main bypass — a connection pipe above the ground — as it worked to repair the inactive 84-inch water transmission. That change allowed the city to continue to supply water to the eastern part of the city and parts of Baltimore County, while ensuring the safety of workers who are fixing the drain.

Repairing the sinkhole has been a lot more complicated than the city had anticipated, Ramos said. DPW will need more time to “be able to really get this right,” she added. Work on the drain also needs to be stopped whenever it rains for safety reasons.

It’s just something the city needs to deal with, given the age of the structure, Ramos said.

Clara Longo de Freitas is a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities. Before joining the Banner, she interned at The Baltimore Sun as an emerging news and community reporter. She also has design and illustration experience with several news organizations, including The Hill and NPR.

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