Readers Respond

Where does buck stop on Back River mismanagement? | READER COMMENTARY

The city-run Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk, which is the state’s largest such facility, is supposed to discharge up to 180 million gallons a day of treated wastewater into Back River. But when problems arise, and sewage is only partially treated, the water flowing into the river is filled with dangerous bacteria and nutrients. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun).

“It doesn’t look like anybody works there.” That was what a senior scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said about the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. Unfortunately, in the past few years, it has been a growing impression about a lot of the Department of Public Works, especially in relation to water and sewers (”Who should manage Baltimore’s water and sewage service?” March 31).

Even a decade ago when I paid my water bill, I felt I was paying for good service with a respectable history derived in part from Abel Wolman’s foresight a century ago. For too long now, it seems the rates go up and the service goes down. There is incompetence in the billing department, so little people are harassed while major customers go unbilled for months or years.


There is incompetence in the maintenance department, so there are leaks and overflows neglected for months and now, it seems, an almost total failure to treat sewage from hundreds of thousands of customers. This could lead to an environmental or public health crisis, or both.

Who is in charge there? If they are not competent to manage this operation, would they please have the decency to admit it and resign? If the head of DPW is not competent to oversee the water and sewer section, would Mayor Brandon Scott have the goodness to look into this and see that adequately trained civil engineers are hired to manage this system and hire and supervise workers effectively so the job gets done? Or, if not, the mayor then the deputy mayor or the city administrator or one of the endlessly growing list of people whose salaries we pay for purposes that are increasingly unclear?


The people of Baltimore pay taxes. They pay water bills. It is past time they got something for their money.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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