Sep 28, 2015
For the past 13 years, Baltimore City has been under a federal consent decree to bring its sewer lines up to standards set by the EPA for public health. Its 75 to 100 year old sewage pipes are allowing untreated sewage to contaminate the Jones Falls and other local streams, which empty into the Inner Harbor. The contaminated water then runs into the Chesapeake Bay.
Although Baltimore is on track to have spent a billion dollars, the work will not be completed at the end of the year as it was supposed to be. In fact, although officials mention how many overflowing pipes they have plugged up, the sewage still runs through the city and into the harbor.
The main treatment plant for sewage is unable to cope with the volume of sewage coming into its pipes – even now, after 13 years of work.
Over the past five and a half years, almost 3,000 incidents spilled at least 93 million gallons of raw sewage into Baltimore City’s waterways.
The city is surrounded by Baltimore County, where overflows also end up running through the same waterways. The county reports only about 600 spills in the same period of time, but their reports show almost 300 million gallons of raw sewage going into the streams and rivers.
Maybe the real figures are even worse.
Baltimore is hardly unique, as the EPA has consent decrees ongoing with 150 cities and counties to stop chronic sewage overflows.
And the problems did not begin with the Clean Water Act 40 years ago. Baltimore City has always collected money from its residents to maintain the water and sewer systems. So what happened to all that money?
For the past 40 years, under every different mayor, there was plenty of money to give to developers to put up fancy buildings at the Inner Harbor. Our water and sewer fees went right there to the Inner Harbor, giving the rich their tax breaks and grants.
Then Baltimore officials have the nerve to claim the city is too broke to maintain its aging pipes!