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Regional water and sewer system can be good for all | READER COMMENTARY

The Baltimore-run Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk, which is the state’s largest such facility, has had difficulty in recent years with partially treated sewage flowing into Back River that is filled with dangerous bacteria and nutrients. File. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Having spent years studying regional water systems after doing graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania focused on this issue, I am writing to offer some thoughts on the potential for regionalization of Baltimore City and Baltimore County water and sewer service under a regional authority (”New task force could change how Baltimore’s water system is run, but some worry it’s too exclusive,” March 1). This is potentially a great moment for the Baltimore metro area, but we need to make sure that the city is treated fairly and that proper recognition and compensation is given to the city for the incredible collection of assets that make up our water system.

First, creating a regional authority and transferring ownership and stewardship of the water and sewer systems to a non-political, regional entity that is solely focused on safe, reliable and affordable drinking water and clean, efficient and environmentally responsible sewer service will result in better service and, longer term, lower rates. Water system management needs to be disconnected from decision making processes dictated by short term election cycle politics, no matter what political party is involved.

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Some may recall the recent debacle over the potential sale of Baltimore’s water system and the backlash that resulted in a charter amendment to ban the sale of water system assets. This charter amendment was an over reaction, I believe. If a regional authority is created, formation as a cooperative, a non-governmental 501 (c)(3) entity with governance by a board elected by account holders with regional representatives, is the best model. In addition, the entity should purchase the water system assets, including the reservoirs, from Baltimore and pay the city fairly for those assets. Otherwise it will be yet another example of Baltimore County extracting value from the legacy of the city.

We all know how that has worked out for Baltimore — with wealth is concentrated in the county while the city is left in the dust.

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— William W. Senft, Baltimore

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