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On Monday 6/3, the Baltimore City Council held its annual budget hearing for the Department of Public Works - and sewage backups were a big subject. The City Council asked for updated information on how many households in Baltimore are getting help from the City's EPA-mandated sewer backup assistance programs, and DPW revealed that in the past two years, only 3 households got reimbursement for City-infrastructure-caused sewer backups, and another 15 households received direct cleanup assistance after City-infrastructure-caused sewer backups. That means that just 18 total households received assistance out of the thousands of City-infrastructure-caused sewage backups in the past two years. The City Council asked why DPW is continuing to fight against EPA and MDE's order to offer assistance to all households experiencing City-infrastructure-caused backups, and DPW justified their actions by citing blatantly incorrect information. For more details, read our 5/31 op ed with Blue Water Baltimore, No Backroom Deals on Baltimore Sewage Backups, and the Sun's 6/4 article about the hearing, Baltimore City Council asks DPW to pay up for home sewage overflows.

DPW's answers about sewage backups at the hearing were outrageous - the agency doubled and tripled down against following EPA and MDE's order to expand sewer backup assistance. Worse, DPW indicated that they thought they were "pretty close" to moving forward with a policy that would fall far short of the program expansion we need and deserve, saying that they were (from the perspective of excluding Baltimore residents from emergency assistance) "optimistic about it."

And at the same time, while citing the cost to the city of providing emergency assistance (and offsetting those costs on individual households instead), DPW is requesting to increase our budget to pay BRESCO to burn our trash by $3.7 million - instead of just sending BRESCO less trash to burn.

EPA, MDE, Mayor Scott, and the City Council need to hear from you now: Baltimore residents deserve emergency assistance with cleaning and disinfecting whenever City-owned infrastructure causes other people's untreated sewage to back up into our homes. DPW must be required expand the sewer backup assistance program according to EPA and MDE's original May 2023 order. And Mayor Scott must immediately instruct DPW to stop negotiating and comply with EPA and MDE's original order. The buck stops with him.

Take action now: contact EPA, MDE, Mayor Scott, and your City Council representatives.

And please help us spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and your neighborhood networks.


Want to watch the hearing for yourself? You can find the content about sewage backups in these four timestamps of the recording:

  • 1:18 - a question from Councilmember Porter

  • 2:26 - a question from Councilmember Burnett

  • 2:40 - a question from Councilmember Ramos

  • 3:05 - a question from Councilmember Burnett

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