On Friday, the City of Baltimore’s Department of Public Works (DPW) lifted a boil water advisory for residents in the Baltimore, Maryland, area and beyond after earlier sampling in the week has detected E.coli in water. Throughout the week, nearly 100,000 residents received bottled water due to contamination.
Baltimore Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott released a statement telling residents there was “no further evidence of contamination” and assured residents that “water can now be safely used in the small advice zone and the initial impact zone”.
On Monday, residents in a few select areas were told they “may want to consider boiling used water from taps.” On Tuesday, the DPW issued a boil water advisory for 54 city blocks, including 1,500 residential and commercial buildings.
Following this, DPW also issued a precautionary boil water advisory for a much larger area including much of West Baltimore and parts of neighboring Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.
Despite professions that the water was now safe, city officials continued to distribute water throughout the area. “We would like all residents to flush their system by turning their faucets cold, showers and all other things you use for water, start at the lower end of the house, work up to the upper end and flush entire system,” said Director of Public Works Jason Mitchell.
Beginning Sept. 6, Baltimore City and Baltimore County officials began distributing bottled water to residents of affected areas of the city at a local elementary school, but distribution was limited to three gallons. per household each day, and many residents reported that the distribution site ran out long before anyone could get water. Some spoke to local news explaining that they were unable to get water as the town and local stores were completely sold out.
Mayor Scott’s “clean water” promises came after a week of confusion and panic among townspeople. Initially, Scott waited until 3 p.m. Monday to issue a vague statement saying the E.coli the contamination was “limited to a specific area” after members of the city council had already spoken to the public.
Residents had denounced the administration for not providing water directly to those who could not get to distribution centers, such as residents of nursing homes and the disabled. Moreover, the city was quickly criticized for the lack of communication with the inhabitants. Many people affected by the advisory must have been notified by neighbors or friends, having not seen the tweets or the official announcement on DPW’s website.
Adding to the confusion, DPW released a revised map removing the Anne Arundel County portion after county officials explained that “Anne Arundel does not currently purchase any water from the City of Baltimore.”
It also appeared that the initial positive E.coli samples had been taken and processed the previous Friday, September 2. This sparked outrage from residents who had been drinking potentially contaminated water throughout Labor Day weekend.
A DPW official told Fox News Baltimore the delay was made to protect the agency’s reputation. “Media relations managers should only be responsible for presenting clear facts to the public for their consumption and not twisting something to make it a little better or a little worse,” the official said.
In the same Twitter thread with the E.coli notice, the DPW said it “flushes the system continuously and performs leak detection, valve assessments and increased chlorination in the area” to deal with contamination.
The affected area is predominantly working-class and poor, with the median annual household income of area residents under the original advisory being $26,000, according to the US Census Bureau.
This is not the first incident of bacterial contamination in the city’s water infrastructure. In April, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) issued a health advisory for the Back River, located two miles east of the city of Baltimore, due to high levels of bacteria.
The failing Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, one of the city’s three treatment plants, is responsible for treating sewage that enters the river.
In March, oversight of the plant was transferred from the city to the state to avoid a “catastrophic failure” that could compromise public health, according to MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles.
The water crisis in Baltimore comes amid the collapse of the water and sewer system in Jackson, Mississippi, which occurred late last month due to heavy flooding. More than 150,000 Jackson residents still do not have access to safe drinking water and have had to wait in line to receive bottled water from state authorities.
There is no limit to the resources the ruling elite will pour into their own pockets or to the escalation of war with Russia and China, but funding for infrastructure, as well as other essential social services, is reduced to nothing because “there is no money”. ”
Baltimore’s water system currently serves 1.8 million people, more than one-third of the state of Maryland. Like many cities in the United States, Baltimore has aging infrastructure dating back to the 19th century, some of which dates back to the Civil War.
“[These issues] are kind of out of sight, out of mind,” former Public Works Department director Rudolph Chow told WBALT in 2017. sewer lines that have been there for decades and some of them are certainly reaching over 100 years old.
“Keeping the system afloat requires constant repairs during a 6-year, $2 billion overhaul. The cost borne primarily by taxpayers, as critical federal government funding dries up,” the local station added.
Earlier this summer, the Baltimore City Board of Estimates voted unanimously to raise water rates by 3.2% per year for the next three years. This follows a 9.3% increase last year. The city is forcing its working population to pay for meager improvements to the system.
For more than a decade, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given American infrastructure a “D+” grade. Incidents like those in Jackson and Baltimore will only become more frequent as long as society remains subordinate to the pursuit of capitalist profit.