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City officials say water pressure largely restored at Poe Homes in West Baltimore

Crews work to replace toilets at the Poe Homes public housing complex in Baltimore.
Crews work to replace toilets at the Poe Homes public housing complex in Baltimore. (Phil Davis)

City officials say they have “turned a corner” in restoring water pressure to the Poe Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore.

Ingrid Antonio, spokeswoman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, said city inspectors are finding consistent water pressure of around 40 pounds per square inch during quality checks of units in the complex, adding, “with confidence,” that service has been restored in some capacity to all of the complex.

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Water pressure of 40 to 45 pounds per square inch is considered typical for residential use by Popular Mechanics.

Residents of the 300-unit complex had been without water service after a June 17 water main break. They’ve been forced to take showers and wash clothes off-site as well as use bottled water for drinking.

In a statement, Janet Abrahams, executive director of the city’s housing authority, thanked the complex’s residents “for their understanding” as the authority announced that water service had been restored.

“We responded to the emergency situation with a methodical overwhelming effort to ensure that our residents were as comfortable as possible given the circumstances,” Abrahams wrote.

Officials canvassed the apartments Tuesday, and several residents indicated that water function had returned, if not fully.

Resident Memi Lewter, who’s lived at Poe Homes for more than five years, said she’s seen water slowly return to a steady pressure at her unit over the past week, allowing her to now wash her clothes and take a shower.

“It’s enough not to annoy me,” she added. However, she said, it’s still “not at full force” and that some residents in neighboring units have reported brown water coming from their faucet.

“My water is clear, but I’m not drinking it,” said Lewter, adding that while some have said it could be rust that just needs to work its way out of the pipes, she is going to await word from the city.

Contractors also were to replace the last 10 energy-efficient, low-flow toilets at the complex by the end of Tuesday, Antonio said. The city had installed such toilets at the complex last week, but residents complained they would not flush, prompting city officials to remove them and replace them with regular-flow toilets.

On Monday, Council President Brandon Scott formally called city agencies to a hearing on their response to the outage, which affected 281 residents, according to the Housing Authority.

In a statement, Scott had said it was “unacceptable for residents to be without water for this long.”

Asked for a response Tuesday to the new developments, Scott said he was pleased to learn about the progress but still wants hearings on various agencies’ responses to the water main break.

“I’m pleased that they have turned a corner and seem to be near completion to be able to get (water) back up and running,” he said. “But also, and equally as important, is what practices and policies are in place so that this doesn’t happen again?

“We have to discuss policies and practices because we do have an aging infrastructure.”

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Antonio added that Department of Public Works crews will continue to do quality checks on the water pressure after all the toilets are installed.

Some residents in the West Baltimore public housing complex have been without consistent water in their homes since Monday after a water main break.

The restoration of water service prompted city officials to halt efforts to relocate 24 households to temporary housing.

Lester Davis, spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the city put on hold all requests to relocate the households to hotels and other public housing units.

Davis said Saturday that the city had identified 175 hotel rooms and 56 additional public housing units to serve as temporary lodging for those who opted to leave the complex in favor of temporary housing in the city or county along with a daily stipend.

One person was relocated, but Antonio said Monday that person returned to their unit once water service was fully restored.

The city had announced Saturday that it had restored water service to the complex, but residents said the water came out at a trickle or not at all at some units, especially on the second floor.

The complex, built around 1940, is adjacent to the former home of Edgar Allen Poe, now a museum dedicated to the famed poet.

In addition, the housing authority will await word from Public Works about when to stop accepting donations of water and other supplies for residents of the complex, Antonio said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

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