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Baltimore County News

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Keyword: public works

By Steve Walsh, Director, Baltimore County Department of Public Works

Keeping safe and healthy means fighting for clean air and water and serving as good stewards of our land. With 200 miles of waterfront and 2,000 miles of streams and tributaries in Baltimore County, we consider protection of the environment a sacred trust.

When you are a diverse county of more than 831,000 people in a region of over 2.8 million residents, the balance between thoughtful development and preserving environmental resources is one of the major responsibilities of government. We take this responsibility very seriously in Baltimore County.

It’s not just a local issue. Across the country, infrastructure that was built in the 1950s is strained. Water and sewer pipes that were installed decades ago are literally bursting at the seams, increasing the number of water main breaks and waste overflows.

To put the scale of the issue into local perspective, there are 3,160 miles of sewer lines plus 2,139 miles of water lines in Baltimore County alone. Sixty percent of the County's water and sewer pipes are more than 50 years old, which is the average life span of a water and sewer pipe. More than half of all the County's pipes were installed before 1970, with the greatest percentage installed in the 1950s.

We could sit and wait for a major environmental disaster. But, Baltimore County is moving forward, modernizing our crumbling infrastructure with an historic $1.6 billion investment in water and sewer system upgrades.

“These ongoing improvements must be made to protect our citizens, now and for the next generation. As a responsible government, we must bite the bullet now and not kick the can down the road," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.     

In 2005, Baltimore County entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment to address these pressing needs. Baltimore County has invested over a billion dollars in water and sewer infrastructure, inspecting hundreds of miles of pipe, rebuilding pumping stations, replacing old lines and monitoring the system. Traditional overflow points have been sealed. Replacement lines have been built to accommodate increased capacity. Sanitary overflows are turning the corner with reductions in annual incidents. All of the County’s major pumping stations have been rebuilt and modernized. The County is on schedule to meet its consent decree obligations and is in good standing.

The County implements a rigorous preventive schedule for inspecting, cleaning and monitoring our entire water and sewer system. When a new development is proposed, we carefully evaluate our capacity to be sure we do not overload the system.  

Every community should expect - and deserves - clean water and safe sewer systems. Infrastructure is a shared benefit. Responsible stewardship of our environmental resources is a shared responsibility.  

by Steve Walsh, Director, Baltimore County Department of Public Works

The danger from tick bites affects anyone who goes outdoors, from to hikers to public works crews to folks enjoying a barbeque in the backyard.

Road crews, utility crews, surveyors and engineers have considerable contact with the out-of-doors and are under a real threat from deer and bear ticks, especially during the hot summer months. Baltimore County’s Department of Public Works trains its employees about the dangers of tick bites.

We teach our crews what to watch for, instruct them how to navigate woods and fields safely, and walk employees through health and safety steps if they think they’ve been bitten.

Our common sense instruction is intended for employees, but it applies to everyone.

Steering clear of tick bites

  • First, the obvious: avoid tick infested areas.
  • Wear light-colored clothing in woods or fields so that you can spot ticks.
  • Tuck pants legs into socks; tuck shirts into pants.
  • Tape the areas where pants and socks meet.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Spray insect repellent.
  • Walk in the center of a trail when possible.
  • Inspect your skin after hiking.
  • Regularly check your pets for ticks and carefully remove any you find.

Here’s how the Centers for Disease Control suggests you safely remove and dispose of a tick.

Tick bites are serious business. Although only two to three percent are infectious in Maryland, tick bites can lead to a range of medical problems including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Early symptoms can include fatigue, chills, fever, joint pain and skin rash within a few weeks of a bite. Many symptoms are common to other diseases, and a professional opinion is a good rule of thumb.

Stay safe and tick-free.

by Kara Eppel, Baltimore County Office of Communications Intern

When you throw away your trash or put out recycling, do you ever think about where your leftovers go?

I had the chance to see for myself – and I can tell you, it was a real eye-opener. I toured the Baltimore County Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at the County’s Central Acceptance Facility in Cockeysville, one of three facilities where Baltimore County residents’ trash and recycling goes after we place it outside for curbside pickup.

On one side of the facility, I saw recycling machines working to sort materials that are sold and then made into new products. At the facility’s transfer station, I saw massive mounds of colorful trash piled high, inside and outside the building. While it did not seem as if this area could contain any more, I watched as truck after truck entered the facility dumping even more trash. Looking around me, I could not image simply burying all of this trash at a landfill, especially since so much of this material could have easily been set out for recycling – and ended up on the other side of the facility. 

While the trash goes straight into the landfill, the recycled material gets cleaned, sorted and baled at the plant. In the facility, huge sorting machines line the wall, suspend from the ceiling, and lie on the ground. Recycling is thrown onto the giant conveyer belt and is dragged through the loud, clunky machines. You can hear the grinding of the materials, the cranking of the wheels, and the churning of the belts. The recycling is sorted and baled and sold for reuse.

Recycling helps the environment and also benefits taxpayers when recycled material is sold. Not only does recycling create an income stream for the county, it saves the county money from reduced disposal costs. 

Unfortunately, not every County resident recycles. They are throwing money into the trash. 

As the daughter of a taxpayer who wants to save money and a concerned resident who wants the environment to remain safe for future generations, I urge more of our citizens to use the recycling resources our county provides. 

Two bins do the trick -- one for trash, one for items that can be recycled. Paper, glass, metal and plastic can all be put in one for recycling. Check your trash and recycling pick up schedules online.   

While this seems like a small act, you are making a huge impact on your county and your environment.

For more information on what can be recycled and how to dispose of residential trash, call 410-887-2000 or check out the recycling and waste prevention information on the County’s website. 

Revised September 26, 2016