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Keyword: safety

Composting is best option

Baltimore County residents are reminded that raking or blowing leaves and grass trimmings into the gutter or street is unsafe, potentially damaging to the Chesapeake Bay, and illegal.

Leaves in the gutter can lead to fires and endanger children who might try to play in the leaves. Leaves and grass trimmings can also clog drains and, if the leaves do get to the bay, cause algae blooms. Algae blooms absorb oxygen and light that fish and aquatic plants need to survive.

Instead of raking or blowing these yard materials into the gutter, the County suggests that residents compost them. Composting leaves and grass trimmings is an easy way to produce an environmentally friendly soil additive for use in gardens.

Another option for Baltimore County residents is to simply mulch fallen leaves with a lawn mower and leave them on the ground, providing a great natural fertilizer for lawns as the leaves decompose. Mulched leaves can also be collected and used around plants, garden beds, under shrubs and hedges, and under trees. The mulch will keep the soil moist and protect the roots of the plants.

Baltimore County residents who choose to bag their yard materials should put them out where they normally place their trash, in accordance with their trash and recycling collection schedule. Residents are reminded to use paper (preferred) or plastic lawn and leaf bags to set out their yard materials, not trash cans or any other type of container.

For more information on how to handle yard materials at home, residents may visit or call 410-887-2000.

Steve Walsh, Director of Public Works

man holding phone while drivingI am definitely not laughing out loud when a guy passes me at 70 mph and he’s texting behind the wheel. Not funny. We know what happens when you text and drive – you’re six times more likely to cause an accident than if you were drinking and driving. And, they say, one in four crashes involves a cell phone.

According to some statistics, a third of all drivers admit to reading or texting behind the wheel. I’m not the first to point out the dangers of this practice, of course, but as Director of Public Works, whose department is involved with roadway safety, I believe we all have a responsibility to speak out and to protect the innocent.

I understand the temptations of technology. I’ve got kids, so I see the lure of phones, computers, and tablets every day. But we need to remind ourselves of the statistics. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes, according to Federal data.

phone in handA driver can safely glance away from the road for only about two seconds; answering a text takes five seconds. And at 55 miles per hour, five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

It’s common sense to stow your phone when you’re on the road. We should learn safe phone protocols the way we learned to use seat belts a couple of generations ago – buckling up (perhaps unwillingly at first) until safe practices become almost second nature.  

Bill Witty, Chief Plumbing-Gasfitting Inspector
Department of Permits, Inspections and Approvals

With homeownership, it seems like there are a myriad of things that can go wrong. This is especially true when it comes to the pipes in your home. Plumbing systems are incredibly complex and can be expensive to repair. Sometimes people don’t recognize the value of hiring a professional so they attempt to do the repairs on their own. Unfortunately, attempting to DIY can often lead to more problems down the road. While there are some issues that can be easily fixed by a skilled homeowner, there are other jobs that should be left to a licensed plumber.

man holding wrenchMany issues around the house can be avoided with proper maintenance or remedied with minor DIY repairs.

Don’t make these common mistakes

Here are some of the most common plumbing maintenance mistakes:

  • Not knowing where all of the shut-off valves are and what they control is one of the biggest mistakes. This includes the main house shut-off. Valves should be shut off before any sort of plumbing project is started. Most of these valves are found in the basement, though some might be hidden behind access panels.
  • Not insulating pipes for protection from extreme winter temperatures. Proper insulation of pipes can help prevent one of the most costly plumbing repairs - burst pipes. If you do experience a frozen pipe, you may be able to thaw it yourself. If you know exactly where the pipes are frozen and they are in an accessible location, you may be able to thaw the pipes using household items such as a hairdryer. Make sure the water is turned off first, and be cautious when warming the pipes as there may already be a split or crack present. If this is the case, water may spray from the split when thawed. The use of anything involving fire, such as a torch, is not advised.
  • Not maintaining the washing machine hose is another common maintenance mistake. Washing machine hoses should be replaced every 3 to 5 years to avoid rusting and possibly bursting the hose. A burst hose can discharge hundreds of gallons of water per hour. Replacing the washing machine hose is an easy way to avoid this headache.

Quick Fixes

A leaky faucet can usually be fixed easily depending on the type of faucet. For most standard faucets, a slow drip can be fixed by simply replacing the washer.

Clogged drains can often be easily fixed, however, if the issue persists then it may require the help of a licensed Master Plumber. For most clogs, plungers are your best bet.  There are many commercial drain cleaning solutions on the market, however continued use of these may cause pipes to wear and corrode. If you do choose to use drain cleaning chemicals, check to make sure they are safe for the type of pipes that are clogged.   

In general, when a repair goes beyond your knowledge or skill level then it is time to call a plumber. There are certain jobs that require permits and inspections that can only be obtained by a Master Plumber licensed in Baltimore County.

When to call in reinforcements

In general, when a repair goes beyond your knowledge or skill level then it is time to call a plumber. There are certain jobs that require permits and inspections that can only be obtained by a Master Plumber licensed in Baltimore County. Here are some jobs that always require a licensed plumber:

  • Renovations that involve expanding or moving the existing plumbing, installing new fixtures, or replacing existing ones. Some fixtures that require permits to change or install include bathtubs, sinks, and toilets.
  • Repairing or replacing any gas appliance. It is imperative that this is done by a plumber licensed in Baltimore County. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless gas that can make you sick or even cause death. Attempting to do gas work on your own is hazardous and can put you and your family in danger.  
  • Sump pumps, just like any other plumbing fixture in your home, will begin to wear down over time and may be in need of a replacement. Having a plumber come in to clean, check and repair your sump pump will ensure that you’re getting the work done properly.
  • Repairs to main water and sewer lines should only be done by a master plumber.  These are already costly repairs and further damage done by an inexperienced homeowner could result in needing a full replacement.

If you have any questions or are in doubt about whether or not a licensed plumber is required for a specific project, feel free to call the Plumbing Inspections Department at 410-887-3620.


Revised September 26, 2016