Some Baltimore-area water customers approach two weeks with no water

As crews continue to plow through a backlog of water outages caused by the deep freeze that began last month, some Baltimore-area residents are well into their second week without water.

The city’s Department of Public Works reported that 69 households had been without water for more than 10 days as of Wednesday. Those were the most recent figures available.

“We’re at a point where the easy ones have been resolved, and we're just dealing with some of the more difficult cases,” said Jeffrey Raymond, a spokesman for the department.

On Thursday morning, 55 water mains still needed repairs and 321 individual customers were still awaiting repairs. At the peak last week, about 1,800 customers in Baltimore and Baltimore County were without water.

In all, the department supplies water to roughly 400,000 customers in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Katina Johnson, a restaurant manager from East Baltimore, said her first inkling that she had a problem came when she returned home Jan. 5 and saw water pouring down the street. She reported the leak, which was stopped, and expected to be without water for a couple of days.

“I can understand a couple of days, but you're talking about over a week,” she said.

For Johnson, who lives with her husband, no water also means no heat, so she’s been trying to keep her bedroom warm with a space heater. She said she’s been going out to eat every night.

“It doesn’t matter what area you're living in, you should be able to have a bare necessity,” Johnson said. “If the mayor didn't have water in her house, I bet you they would have that fixed. Someone would be there that night.”

The recent bout of water problems began with a long spell of below-freezing temperatures after Christmas. The cold weather can freeze water meters, which are designed to burst to protect the pipes around them but then have to be replaced. As the ground contracts in the cold and then expands as it thaws again, pressure increases on water mains.

City Councilman Eric Costello said he knew of two residents in his district, which includes midtown, downtown and South Baltimore, who had faced long outages even as the vast majority of problems have been solved.

“Frankly, it’s been too long at this point,” he said. “They’re doing the best they can, but again still more to be done.”

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said she had heard of cases of people going more than a week without water but that the public works department handled those problems last weekend.

“That was a turnaround time for me,” she said.

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