A sewer overflow discharging brown sewage into a local waterway.
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Action Alert: Speak Out About Sewage Backups

Sewage doesn’t belong in our streets – or our homes.

When it rains in Baltimore, millions of gallons of sewage flow into our streams, rivers, Inner Harbor, and even our homes.

A manhole discharging brown raw sewage into a street with a gray car parked in the background.
When it rains in Baltimore, millions of gallons of sewage flow into our streams, streets, and even our homes. Credit: Alice Volpitta / Blue Water Baltimore

Sewage backups in homes and buildings are a big problem in BaltimoreHeavy rainfall coupled with the city’s crumbling infrastructure causes toxic sewage to back up into residents’ homes thousands of times a year. These backups put residents’ health, homes, and financial security at risk.

In April 2018, Baltimore City launched a pilot Expedited Reimbursement Program to help residents with the costs of cleaning up a basement backup. The pilot will help the city create a permanent program required by the Sanitary Sewer Consent Decree. After 18 months, has the project helped?

  • More than 4,600 reports of building sewage backups were reported to 311 in the program’s first year, but only 74 households applied for reimbursement. Of those, Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) rejected all but 10.
  • Of the $2 million set aside to reimburse residents, less than $15,000 (less than one percent) has been paid out.
  • Eligible applications can receive up to $2,500. However, these funds can only be used for cleanup and disinfecting. In many cases, this is far from enough.
  • Program restrictions and requirements disqualify thousands of people who would benefit most from this program.

Lifting restrictions, publicizing the program better, and increasing the dollar amount that can be reimbursed would all make things easier for residents who find sewage backed up into their basement. In order to make these things happen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) need to know.

Help us speak out to help improve this program and make sure it succeeds!

Take Action: MDE Listening Session on September 30, 2019

Have you had sewage back up into your home in Baltimore City? Are you worried it could happen to you? Have you had experience with the City’s reimbursement program? Do you want to make sure Baltimore City helps your neighbors and communities when sewage backups happen? Speak out at MDE’s upcoming listening session on sewage backups.

[maxbutton id=”2″ url=”https://bluewaterbaltimore.org/event/9-30-2019-mde-sewer-backups/” text=”Learn More” ]


  • Monday, September 30
  • 6 to 8pm
  • Maryland Department of the Environment
  • 1800 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230
  • Parking available on-site

This is your chance to share your experiences and concerns and voice your ideas for how the City could better assist residents who experience this problem. Representatives from MDE and EPA will be in attendance and may use the information they hear to shape future requirements for Baltimore City’s response to sewer building backups. Members of the public will be able to give 1-2 minutes of time for oral testimony.

Can’t make it? Write to MDE!

MDE is currently accepting written public comments on the Reimbursement Program. Submit your comment via email at [email protected].

Deadline: Friday, October 11 at 5:00pm EST.

Additionally, thanks to a resolution introduced by Council Member Burnett, Baltimore City Council plans to hold hearings regarding the expedited basement backup which will also include opportunities for public comment. That hearing has not yet been scheduled, but we will update this page and will put a notice on our social media pages when it is. Stay tuned!

Featured Image Credit: Nicole DiPietro / Baltimore Sun

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