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'It's terrible': Poe Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore still without water after Monday main break

Residents at Poe Homes in West baltimore have been living without adequate running water for almost a full week. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun video)

After five days without regular water access, residents of the Poe Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore received a letter Friday advising them to stay with relatives, as the problems might persist over the weekend.

The latest problem is another broken valve discovered after other repairs had been made.

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For many residents, such as 31-year-old Calvin Smith, going elsewhere simply isn’t possible.

“It’s just so nonchalant,” he said. “That’s how I feel that they feel: It ain’t my problem.”

For Smith and his wife, five days without normal running water has meant constant difficulties. Now the water is trickling out of the faucets, but the toilet still does not flush.

“I put gloves on, and I take a market bag and literally I’m digging urine and feces with toilet paper out of the toilet, putting it in the bag, walking to the dumpster,” he said.

The city’s Department of Public Works has placed piping above ground, bypassing the broken underground pipes, to provide limited water access, department spokesman Jeff Raymond said. But problems with water volume and pressure have made the bypass piping less effective.

“We’ve got a combination of mains and valves that we have to work with that are showing problems,” he said. “We’re dealing with water mains that are subject to breaking, so that’s a factor.”

Poe Homes resident Henry Jones, 59, was able to stay somewhere else this week, but he’s been in and out of Poe Homes, and his issues there persist.

Jones said there’s mold in his home, which he’s lived in for more than 20 years. “It’s terrible,” he said.

The water outage is “just one of 100 other problems these people are living with,” said Rafiki Morris, an organizer for Communities United who visited Poe Homes on Friday.

The public works department addressed the problems in a couple of Facebook posts Friday afternoon.

A break on North Schroeder Street forced the department to shut down a large 20-inch water main, DPW said in one post, leaving about 1,000 water services without water.

“Water service was restored to the majority of services by Wednesday night,” the post read. “But DPW found out since then that at least one valve, controlling water flow to Poe Homes, broke in the closed position after the water main break had been repaired.

“This is a complex situation,” the post continued, “and repairs have not been easy. A 6-inch main broke overnight as we were attempting to replace a valve.”

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In a subsequent post, DPW said work to repair than main Friday did not restore water to all Poe Homes residents.

“This evening, DPW contractors are preparing to install a bypass system to restore stronger water pressure to all impacted residents,” the post said. “DPW contractors are continuing to make needed water infrastructure repairs.”

While the problems continue, the city’s housing authority and DPW are providing bottled water to Poe Homes residents, as is the Community Engagement Center of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The university’s fitness facility is offering free showers until 6 p.m. Friday.

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