20 year study confirms what Baltimore residents already know: Investment into water infrastructure is needed - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

20 year study confirms what Baltimore residents already know: Investment into water infrastructure is needed

The release of findings from a 20-year study by Blue Water Baltimore, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies on the surface water quality data in the Gwynns Falls area, confirmed what many Baltimore residents already knew – that more investment is needed in  Baltimore water infrastructure.

Changes in water quality were tracked from 1998 – 2014. The study measured every possible variable affecting the state of the water in the Gwynns Falls watershed, including precipitation, sewage leaks and pollution.

The research revealed that projects such as retention ponds and rain gardens, which are used to limit the amount of runoff entering straight into storm drains before exiting into the Chesapeake Bay, improved water quality.

As all Baltimore residents will know only too well; any large amount of rainfall and the drains quickly get blocked up, causing flooding. Fixing the antiquated drainage systems is far beyond local pipe surgeons and the leaks in sewage were identified in the study as a cause of deteriorating water quality.

Alice Volpitta, water quality manager for Blue Water Baltimore, an organization whose mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams, and Harbor, said: “We’ve known a long time, sewage bad, stormwater projects good. This is the first time with statistical accuracy we can say sewage is really detrimental to water quality.”

The study also revealed there was a significant increase in rainfall over the two decades’ worth of research. “It is deeply concerned about stronger storms and greater rainfall, which over the years have been exacerbating pollution from stormwater runoff and putting more pressure on our sewage pipes and best management practices,” said the Blue Water release.

Baltimore Hemorrhaging Water

The problems aren’t just confined to the antiquated drainage systems and too much rain. An incredible 35.1 percent of water released from water treatment plants in Baltimore was “lost” before it got to the businesses and homes of county and city customers. Most water losses come from hidden cracks, breaks, and broken valves in Baltimore’s aging underground network.

Just two weeks ago, Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Board of Estimates received the news that Baltimore was hemorrhaging millions of gallons of water and millions of dollars. Dale Thompson the DPW deputy director, implied that one of the chief culprits causing water loss was water meters.

“This is one of the reasons why we are replacing all of the old meters,” Mr. Thompson said, referencing the $83 million contract granted to Itron Inc to replace existing meters with Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) awarded in 2013.

The hope is now that with the problems identified, further investment into water infrastructure is not far away. “We’re facing a changing climate,” said Alice Volpitta “It makes the investment all the more important now. It’s going to get more costly as time goes on. The problem isn’t going to go away all on its own.”

The timing of the report coincided with more flood warnings in the Baltimore area from the National weather service. Heavy rains have already flooded areas of downtown Annapolis. The last few days has seen Dock Street closed due to flooding and Compromise Street only partially open.



About the author

Ben Myers

Ben Myers is an experienced freelance journalist, writer, and nomad. Much-traveled, Ben originates from the UK, enjoys spending time with his family, trading the markets, the crypto world and soccer, although not necessarily in that order. Contact the author.

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