A record number of 353 water main breaks during January has caused the city to fall far behind in its emergency repair work, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledged today.
The mayor blamed extreme weather conditions – including the lowest temperatures in more than a decade – for causing ruptured and bursting water mains at a rate of 11 per day. That’s far above the normal rate of three breaks a day.
Although the city water system encompasses Baltimore County, the vast majority of breaks took place in the city where some water pipes are more than a century old.
At a press conference today, the mayor touted her program to accelerate the replacement of water mains as the long-term solution to the problem – and hailed her appointment of Rudolph S. Chow as new director of Public Works as the right man to lead the agency.
“I am confident that he will guide the department with an eye toward the future, in the same way he led and innovated at the Bureau of Water and Wastewater,” she said.
Chow was named chief of the water bureau in February 2011. Today he named Kumasi Vines, a former mayoral assistant and head of the DPW Office of Boards and Commissions, as acting director of the water bureau.
According to Chow, water-related service requests totaled 12,979 last month, or 142% above the average. Repairs to water meters ran at more than double the normal rate, requiring city crews and contractors to work longer hours.
Still, there is a lengthy backlog of leaking water lines that have not been repaired. Fortunately, the city did not suffer a rupture to a major pipeline in January along the lines of the broken 60-inch main that sent floodwaters down Charles Street 15 months ago.