May 13, 2002
On April 28, five million gallons of raw sewage began discharging into the Gunpowder Falls in eastern Baltimore County. Workers needed 32 hours to contain the spill. The same day in another part of Baltimore County, 190,000 gallons of raw sewage began spilling into the water. Officials posted warnings prohibiting all fishing and boating for at least a week.
In just the last year, Baltimore County has had 100 sewage spills, revealing big problems with the entire water infrastructure. Nor is the county alone in its problems. Another county just south of Baltimore City had a 50,000 gallon spill that same week and a western Maryland county spilled 20 million gallons of sewage into Antietam Creek this past February.
Baltimore City had so many sewage spills that it was forced to pay a fine and to agree to spend almost a billion dollars in sewage and water repairs over the next decade. The city may be the worse offender because much of its water infrastructure dates back to 1904, but the counties don’t seem to be doing much better. Since World War II, all the counties which surround cities have experienced huge growth, putting big demands on their water and sewage systems.
Clearly, local governments are not spending the funds needed to keep up with water and sewage use. In the case of Baltimore City, the money will come out of residents’ pockets. The mayor has already announced that water and sewer rates will double.
Government pretends that its primary function is to construct and manage the infrastructure the population needs. Individuals cannot build the roads or dig the sewers or pay for fire equipment or hospitals.
Government does these things, it’s true, but often in ways that don’t serve the population. When roads, lighting, bridges, water and sewage are crumbling, the politicians give contracts fat with profit to their friends. Roads are built that don’t last, using methods that leave us fuming in traffic jams. Water and sewage money is not put aside to constantly upgrade the structures which are getting old before it’s too late. Big water users, that is, industry, get out of the real cost of the water or roads or tunnels they use. And politicians also find money for their pet projects: tax breaks for big corporations, new stadiums and hotels and tourist facilities using our taxes to bribe developers to build they already planned to do anyhow.
Government spending shows actually whose interests they really serve.