2020 was a year like no other for water quality monitoring and advocacy in Baltimore, and we are proud of our accomplishments and flexibility during such a tumultuous time. We continued our water quality monitoring program despite the many challenges of COVID, utilizing our in-house rapid bacteria setup to continue processing bacteria samples. We hosted a Waterkeeper Wednesday from the bathroom (don’t flush those wipes!), danced at the harbor in honor of Blue Water Baltimore’s tenth birthday, and applauded Mayor Young for signing the plastic bag ban into effect.
While there are countless moments to celebrate from 2020, the data shared at our first virtual Afternoon With Your Waterkeeper, continued sewage backup advocacy and outpour of community pollution sleuthing were truly rewarding, feel-good aspects we’d like to share with you once more.
A Decade of Data Analysis
Blue Water Baltimore’s first-ever major virtual event, Afternoon With Your Waterkeeper, was held on Earth Day 2020. While the pandemic threw a major wrench in our monitoring schedule, and pushed our annual water quality report online, it also gave us the opportunity to conduct a scientific trends analysis on our full data set spanning from 2009-2019. What your Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, Alice Volpitta, discovered was pretty amazing, and it was great to hear her report out on the findings below!
- Bacteria levels are improving at roughly 67% of our monitoring stations, which is great news. This means we should prioritize sewer rehabilitation projects and investments, because it appears they may be working to measurably improve water quality.
- Key water quality metrics related to stormwater management are worsening at about half of our stream stations. Installing green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) and increasing funding from our City Stormwater Utility Fee for GSI will help reduce the amount of polluted stormwater runoff that is degrading the health of Baltimore’s streams.
Check out our most recent water quality readings at BaltimoreWaterWatch.org!
Sewage Backup Advocacy
Much of Blue Water Baltimore’s advocacy in 2020 focused on the traumatic, costly, and destructive epidemic of sewage backups that plague our local communities. We were successfully able to shine the spotlight on this chronic problem, and as a result of our advocacy, DPW has made several key changes to their Expedited Reimbursement Program. These changes make it easier for Baltimore City residents to get financial relief when they experience a capacity-related wet-weather sewage backup. But our work isn’t finished! We’re still advocating for a stronger program, and we want to see direct assistance for residents who experience any type of sewage backup into their home.
In 2020 we received 79 Pollution Reports from concerned residents throughout our watershed. Residents notified our team about everything from sewage overflows, to mystery oil slicks in the Harbor, to large bright-red plumes surging out of pipes at Canton Waterfront Park. A report about a fish kill caused by a major water main break in Dead Run resulted in Alice Volpitta, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, testifying at City Hall. Ultimately, the City was required to pay a settlement fee for the damages caused to our fragile ecosystem.
We are especially grateful for our pollution sleuths!!! As a very small team, we rely on residents in all corners of our watersheds to report pollution and tips about noncompliant facilities. Our goal is to speak on behalf of our waterways and amplify the voices of our community. Your voice matters, and we couldn’t do this work without YOU!
Don’t forget, you can report pollution and join our community of pollution sleuths! Thank you for being a part of the Blue Water Baltimore team – cheers to 2021!