Officials are scrambling to contain a sewage line that broke following deadly flash flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland, on July 30.
Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the Department of Environment, told the Baltimore Sun that roughly 5 million gallons of sewage per day have been flowing into the Sucker Branch tributary of the Patapsco River.
The leak was not discovered until Tuesday, three days after storms unleashed over 6 inches of water in just two hours across Ellicott City.
Crews are struggling to repair the break, which was located under a road washed out by powerful floodwaters.
Steep terrain and other environmental conditions have made accessibility challenging, the Howard County Department of Health said.
On Wednesday, the leak prompted the Anne Arundel County Department of Health to close a section of the Patapsco River to swimming and other direct water contact.
"The Department advises people coming in contact with the affected water to wash well with soap and warm water immediately. Clothing should also be washed," according to a press release.
It was not immediately known how long it would take to repair the break.
In addition to coping with environmental concerns, the city has warned of structural damage to buildings on Ellicott City's Main Street. Engineers say collapse is imminent for at least two buildings if they are not stabilized.
Ellicott City is part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area and is home to over 65,000 people.
The area is no stranger to devastating floods, after sustaining severe damage from Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Tropical Storm Lee also deluged the city in 2011.