Baltimore launches program helping residents pay for cleanup after some sewage backups

Baltimore will now pay up to $2,500 toward cleanup costs associated with some basement sewage backups.

The city launched the reimbursement program last month under a federally supervised program to modernize its aged, leaky sewer system.

Only sewage backups caused by heavy rain are eligible for the program, and the backups must be reported within 24 hours. Claims for reimbursement of cleanup costs must be submitted to the city within 90 days of the incident.

Several thousand times every year, sewage backs up into basement toilets or drains across the city, sometimes because the system is overloaded with rain. In other cases, backups are caused by clogs like the so-called “fatberg” discovered under a Baltimore street last year.

While clogs are often caused because residents improperly flush wipes down the toilet or pour grease into their drains, the city agreed last year to help residents deal with the costs of cleaning up rain-related sewage backups.

Advocates had pushed for the city to do more to help people dealing with backups, because they stem in large part from lack of repairs to the sewage system and from city efforts to reduce contamination in waterways.

Baltimore’s sewers are supposed to be a closed system, but cracks and breaks in sometimes century-old pipes allow them to be inundated with stormwater.

The city also has agreed to larger settlements with some residents who have dealt with repeated backups, such as a Northwest Baltimore woman who endured 10 backups in her home over five years.

More information about the program and application forms can be found on the city Department of Public Works’ website.

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