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Water billing woes cry out for whistleblowers | READER COMMENTARY

A posted sign on the door of the Baltimore Department of Public Work's water department office in the Abel Wolman Municipal Building because of a a ransomware attack on the city's computer system. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun).
A posted sign on the door of the Baltimore Department of Public Work's water department office in the Abel Wolman Municipal Building because of a a ransomware attack on the city's computer system. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun). (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Thanks for the recent article, “Plagued by broken equipment, Baltimore’s high-tech water system has lost millions of dollars because thousands of customers aren’t being billed” (June 10), highlighting the joint work of Baltimore City and County inspector generals.

Their recent report exposed that 22,000 water system customers paid little or no money on their water bills due to broken meters, many for a year or more. The article stated “others among the system’s 400,000 customers have paid ever higher water rates.” I am one of them.

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The article raises the question: Where were the water system whistleblowers? Why did it take IGs to research and report this?

I was among a small group of whistleblowers in 1995 when we refused an order to fill a broken leachate pond with toxic water from the Quarantine Road Landfill. The concentrated toxins would have leached into aquifers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Yes, I was fired by then then-Director of Public Works George Balog and had to rebuild my career. But I rose again in time to become deputy commissioner of housing. I retired at the end of 2019 with honor. I slept well with a clear conscience from 1995 to 2019. My fellow whistleblowers sued Mr. Balog in federal court, and he was ordered to personally pay my colleagues tens of thousands of dollars.

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I encourage whistleblowers in city, state and federal governments to stand up. I wish career lawyers in U.S. Department of Justice had done so during the Donald Trump years over corruption and gross policy violations.

I also encourage the city to refund or credit customers who paid too much when customers who paid little or nothing finally pay up. Many of us are retirees on fixed incomes.

Ken Strong, Baltimore

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