The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Boil Water Alert in Baltimore

Sep 12, 2022

On the morning of Labor Day, Monday, September 5, residents in parts of West Baltimore City and Baltimore County were informed that they needed to boil their water for washing and bathing, and to use only bottled water for drinking and cooking until further notice. Contamination by E. coli bacteria had been detected in water samples from three test locations in West Baltimore.

Needless to say, this created big problems for people living in these areas. By Monday evening, the Baltimore Department of Public Works began handing out thousands of gallon containers of water at several locations to help area residents.

The CDC says that E. coli contamination can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Illness caused by the bacteria is usually mild and clears up in a few days. But in rare cases a life-threatening complication can result about a week following the initial infection.

E. coli can enter the water supply from sewage overflows, sewer systems that are not working properly, polluted storm water runoff or agricultural runoff. After its detection in Baltimore’s water, the city Department of Public Works said it was identifying construction projects that may have caused the contamination, checking for leaks and monitoring chlorine levels. They also began to add more chlorine to water being piped into the area.

People were shocked to find out the contamination had first been detected on Saturday, September 3, two days before it was announced. City officials claimed this delay was necessary in order to re-test water samples to make sure the first test results were not a false alarm.

On Thursday, September 8, three days after the first public announcement, city officials said the contamination had cleared up in 2 of the 3 locations where it had initially been detected. They reduced the boil water alert zone significantly. The next day they ended the boil water advisory completely. They also announced that the water bills for residents in the areas that had been affected would be reduced by 25% this month.

People are of course happy to have their water bills reduced for a month. But some people have not started cooking or drinking their tap water again, because they have lost confidence in city officials who claim they still do not know what caused the contamination. In addition, the whole incident has focused more attention on the lack of regular water system maintenance and improvement that has been sorely lacking for years despite skyrocketing water bills.