Flood victims hail $35 billion water main bill

Cardin said the broken water main that engulfed over 100 homes in a torrent of water Friday Sept. 18 was more proof of the “dire straits” of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The bill he said would help restore “clean, safe, drinking water” and reduce the plague of water main breaks across the country.

Families were out in force on a warm autumn day in Logan Village and nearby Turner Station, an African American community, cleaning up damage to their homes. Crews of Baltimore County highway workers were loading ruined furniture, television sets, and plastic garbage bags stuffed with soaked and reeking belongings into sanitation trucks.

Retired steelworker, Pete Stokes, paused in the grim toil of cleaning up flood damage to his home in Turner Station, an African American community hit by the flood. He strongly endorsed Cardin’s bill. “It would be a blessing ,” he told the World. “It could create jobs and at the same time correct a problem that has been here for over 30 years.” Stokes said he worked 43 years at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrow’s Point Mill looming just across the Bay. He said the floodwaters engulfed his air conditioning unit, flowed into the back entryway of his home and immersed his furnace motor and water heater in water. He also lost a computer to the flood. “Allstate Insurance is denying our claim,” he said. “They argue that the damage was ‘man-made’ not an ‘Act of God.'”

His neighbor, Renwick Glenn, a longshoreman at the nearby Dundalk Marine Terminal also endorsed the bill. “When are they going to start?” he asked with a wry grin. “It’s already too late for a lot of people. Why not provide some of that $35 billion to fix up our houses. We get flooded every time it rains.” He charged that faulty design in the system of storm drains in the tidewater town backs water up into their houses rather than carrying it to the nearby Chesapeake Bay. “It isn’t our fault that Baltimore County designed the system wrong.” The county, he said, should be held liable for longstanding damage to their homes.

Pete Hunt, owner of “Pete’s Barber Shop” in the Logan Village shopping mall told the World he had an unobstructed view when the water main burst about a block up Dundalk Avenue. “Water was just shooting up in a geyser. It was just before 4:00 P,M. Friday,” he said. “It was a river over a foot deep that just flowed over into Logan Village and down the road to Turner Station.” One of his customers, Earl Miller, a retired U.S. Army veteran said, “These water mains have been busting all over the city. It’s the same kind of problem. It’s a good idea to replace those pipes before it happens again.” He lifted his T-shirt and displayed an ugly purple bruise on his hip and side. “I slipped and fell in the mud and broke two ribs,” he said. “Thank God I had VA medical coverage.”

A similar break in a water main sent flood waters through Halethorpe, on the west side of Baltimore, last April forcing a shutdown of passenger rail service between Baltimore and Washington. Both disasters were caused by the collapse of the same type of pre-stressed concrete pipes used extensively during the 1970s as suburbs sprouted across the nation. Engineers now blame defective design of the six-foot diameter pipes for widespread collapses. The question is: when and where will the next collapse strike?

A big crew of Baltimore County highway workers formed a human chain to clear a mountain of wreckage from the back yard of George Ravis in Logan Village. “I was at a crab feast when it happened,” he told the World. “A friend saw it on television and called me. I rushed right home. My main concern was my two dogs. A neighbor rescued them. I had seven-and-a-half feet of water in my basement, six inches below my floor joists. I didn’t even know there was a 72 inch water main near here. Cardin’s bill is a little bit late. But better late than never. We’ve had Katrina and now flooding in Georgia.” Just then the compacter on the back of the sanitation truck crushed the carcass of his 36 inch big screen TV.




Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.