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A bill that would offer Baltimore water customers more protections has been weakened by the Department of Public Works.
A bill that would offer Baltimore water customers more protections has been weakened by the Department of Public Works. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Obscene. That’s the word that came to mind as I read that only eight residents of Baltimore have been able to take advantage of the $775,000 hardship fund established by HomeServe in 2014 (“Baltimore sewage backups: Where is the help?” Oct. 11). This fund was mandated in exchange for HomeServe’s exclusive contract on water line insurance ― using the city’s seal on the correspondence — as we upgrade our aging infrastructure.

There are too many stories of my neighbors in the city suffering through headaches caused by the aging infrastructure and the costs associated with correcting it for me to count. The number of them helped is disgustingly low.

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This obscenity is merely the most recent data point in a long story of shameful practices around water access and affordability in Baltimore. That’s why consumer advocates have been pushing for the Water Accountability and Equity Act (WAEA), which would make water affordable and create a new Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals — an office that would help residents access that hardship fund.

As reported on Oct. 11, city leaders, including my councilperson, Kris Burnett, and Council President Brandon Scott, are in favor of this legislation. Unfortunately, last month Department of Public Works Director Rudy Chow introduced amendments to the legislation which would remove the affordability program, water shutoff protections, shutoff notification requirements and the entire Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals. In their place, Dr. Chow proposed codifying the department’s existing assistance program and procedures, which we now know has helped only eight people in five years with infrastructure improvements.

We can do better. We must do better. Water is a human right. Let’s act like it.

Tracie Guy-Decker, Baltimore

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