Saturday, September 4, 2010

A large bottle of water, please, very, very large.

We drink "city water" at our house, the kind the comes from the tap, and is collected, prepared, stored and delivered by the City of Baltimore. Years ago as a junior high student, or maybe elementary school age, I toured the Montebello Filtration Plant in northeast Baltimore, one of 2 water supply operations run by the municipal government. There, supplies from one of 2 reservoirs, or in times of extreme drought, river water from the Susquehanna some 50 miles away, is treated. The growing population, and shrinking "woods" around the reservoirs, adds to the risk of contaminants, as does the aging infrastructure.

I'm happy with the water quality, drinking it from the faucet, cooking and cleaning with it on a daily basis. When I get the water bill, I just pay it. At times, literature comes with the bill, either news the government wants to pass on, or this quarter, news that must pass on. Before that, here's a tangential web page showing our water consumption, if not the cost:

It's about a year out of date as I write this, but since I have the recent bills in a folder, I'll get it updated shortly. I hope.

Anyway, the 1-page insert talked about the fact that the city was being required to make improvements by the federal government (the EPA, where I once worked), and the state was involved as well (MDE; I worked there too). I had to re-read it to understand the background. EPA wants the city to cover the "finished" water reservoirs, for health and safety reasons. Sounds reasonable, until one thinks about the domed stadiums that were trendy for a few decades, starting I think with the Houston Astrodome in the mid-1960s. On another tangent, Google is celebrating the 25th anniversary of "Bucky Balls", one of the inventions of Buckminster Fuller, the man behind the geodesic dome.

The finished water is just one of the storage phases between the uncovered reservoirs and the covered conduits that deliver the liquid over hundreds of miles to homes and businesses. I recall flocculation and settling tanks, under roof, from my tour decades ago, and have seen new structures spring up as the technology and population have changed. We drove around Lake Montebello many times, and Druid Lake on the west side of the city is a landmark near the zoo. Those are uncovered, but I'm not sure if they're the target of this latest regulation. Five locations are listed as needing new covers, with Ashburton, Guilford and Towson the others beside the 2 sites I mentioned.

Searching online, with the keywords "EPA maintains that the city failed to comply with LT2", I found 2 hits, one on a Baltimore City site, and one for Anne Arundel County (with the latter including a PDF file with a scanned image of the letter for some reason).

What caught my eye, probably, was the suggestion that nothing is wrong, but that one part of the government disagrees with another part, or parts. The EPA says the city missed a deadline. The city says that the state order to them was tardy. It sounds like the penalty for missing the deadline is that the public notice needed to be mailed out.

I particularly liked that the notice included a sentence starting with "Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water...". So I am!

Geocoding note. Of the 5 lakes or reservoirs listed, I found Panoramio photos nearly only 3 of them. Sounds like a hike plan to get shots of the other 2. Here they are, if you want to armchair travel to them:

  1. Lake Montebello
  2. Druid Hill Lake
  3. Lake Ashburton - 39 19 14.63 N 76 40 12.02 W
  4. Guilford Reservoir
  5. Towson Reservoir - 39 23 35.67 N 76 35 27.40 W
For the missing two, copy and paste the latitude/longitude pair into