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

Water Down the Drain

Sep 26, 2022

September 30 marks the 20th anniversary of a consent decree between the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA. Twenty years ago, the city had to admit its 100-year-old water and sewer pipes were breaking constantly, and sewage was reaching people’s basements in countless back-ups.

But state and federal funding was minimal, even though Baltimore is one of the poorest jurisdictions in a wealthy state. Instead, city and county residents and businesses were the ones who paid, double and then double again. Yes, 20 years later, with water mains still breaking daily, and with too few people to answer the phones about the bills, four times as much money comes from those using the system as they had to pay 20 years ago.

Baltimore, claiming a shortage of funds, began asking the EPA for more time to fix the numerous problems in water and sewage five years ago, and was granted it. This past March, however, the Maryland Department of the Environment took over the two main sewage plants in the area, after sewage leaked out in enormous amounts, including fecal matter.

A scathing report issued after the temporary take-over pointed out dozens of vacancies in the sewage plants, changes in management, clogged machinery, etc. People living near those two plants are afraid to use the water flowing from the pipes and the city issued advisories against swimming or fishing nearby.

It’s no wonder Baltimore says it has no money to fix this mess. Bethlehem Steel was one of the main industrial users of water in Baltimore County for 120 years and got special rates. Nonetheless, when it went bankrupt and closed, and was bought by four successive corporate entities, all of them left the city of Baltimore owing millions of dollars.

How many other companies owe the system money that residents don’t hear about?

And how many other cities have 100-year-old pipes breaking down due to lack of maintenance all across the country, in which residents pay the piper and corporations either dump waste into the water or get out of paying like ordinary people or small businesses pay?