Best Court Block

City Paper

The main driver of Baltimore’s rising water-and-sewer rates is a court-mandated upgrade to its chronically leaky sewer system, which, despite more than a decade of spending hundreds of millions of dollars, is still chronically leaky. The arrangement is overseen by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, and was sealed in 2002 with a consent decree in a lawsuit brought by state and federal environmental agencies—the watchdogs—against the City of Baltimore, which was facing steep fines for breaking clean-water laws. Last year, given the watchdogs’ track record of, well, not keeping adequate watch over the situation, the clean-water advocacy group Blue Water Baltimore (BWB)—a group that has specialized expertise in sewage-leak issues—sought to join the lawsuit as a party, to serve as citizen overseers to make sure the watchdogs were doing their jobs. Motz said no, and the sewage keeps leaking. Though BWB has no seat at the table in a legal sense, at least the watchdogs are on notice that they’re being watched. Closely. Remember that as the rates keep rising.

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