Water Blog - Blue Water Baltimore has Requested to Intervene in the Consent Decree

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.



Blue Water Baltimore has Requested to Intervene in the Consent Decree Sewage

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Blue Water Baltimore filed a motion on Wednesday, July 27th in U.S. District Court, that if granted, would allow Blue Water Baltimore to become a legal party to the proposed modified consent decree intended to guide repairs of Baltimore’s aging sewage system.

Blue Water Baltimore and its predecessor organizations have been working on Baltimore’s sewage problems for decades. By intervening, we ensure that the citizen voice is represented in the decision-making progress in a robust and long-term manner.

What Does it Mean to Intervene?

Any individual or organization can intervene in a legal action if they have an interest in the subject matter. By intervening, Blue Water Baltimore would join the legal action and have an active role in how it is implemented. Nonprofit organizations have successfully intervened in other similar consent decrees in cities like Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Why Intervene?

The city is making repairs and some progress has been made. But we believe that a final deadline of 2033 is too far off — improving water quality sooner will benefit Baltimore’s economy and provide needed relief to homeowners impacted directly. Other cities have met requirements of a consent decree in far less time.

While the City is indicating a significant amount of progress will be made by 2021, we still want to ensure that deadline is met and that we have the ability to meaningfully comment on the success of Phase I, as well as the Phase II plan that will be developed then.

Blue Water Baltimore and local citizens have documented and reported sewage spills and violations for almost a decade, with several of the same issues occurring in the same places today. Improving water quality and reducing basement backups will only occur with accelerated infrastructure repair and we believe our extensive “eyes and ears” on the water and in streams will help confirm where and when those repairs are taking place.

Blue Water Baltimore is also the only party actively taking water quality samples to scientifically evaluate water quality. More people are recreating in Baltimore’s waterways than ever before and we want those people to have less risk when they come in contact with the water. Effective enforcement of the consent decrees, and the reduced pollution that would result, are imperative to cleaning up local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay as well as addressing public health concerns due to bacteria and viruses.

What Are We Looking to Improve

Blue Water Baltimore is still actively reviewing the proposed consent decree amendments and we are formulating our public comments, which will be released soon. However, we can share several main concerns now:

  • We need specific, measurable water quality goals so that we can track progress throughout the consent decree timeline.
  • The 2033 deadline is too far off — we need to improve water quality sooner to protect residents and Baltimore’s economy.
  • We need proper transparency and accountability, so that residents can be assured that financial resources are being spent effectively and projects and programs are working.

Additional Resources