Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Never Before/For the First Time

Remember this? 

…I would like to congratulate County Executive Calvin Ball and the team in Howard County Government for pulling off a feat of downright magic this week. In about 24 hours they got a significant number of Howard County residents to do something they had never done before: look at a public transit schedule. (“Difficult to Move”, Village Green/Town², August 27, 2021)

Last year the County stepped in to offer some assistance when a severe shortage in school bus drivers was looming large on the horizon. Alas, we’re still struggling with having enough school bus drivers. I’m glad to see the County will be continuing the RTA program. This year it’s expanding. The year-round free RTA Bus Pass Program for all Howard County Public School System middle and high school students will now include Howard Community College students.

But wait - - there’s more! 

Free-fare is here! All RTA fixed-route and paratransit rides will be free from Sept 1 to Oct 31! (Commute Howard)

It might just be time for you to look at a public transit schedule.

Strangely enough, the story that brought this to mind this morning was a more sobering one. I realized that yesterday’s news reports out of Baltimore about water contamination probably caused a lot of local folks to think seriously about where our water comes from for the very first time. It’s possible they had never really had cause to think about it before.

We turn on the tap. The water comes out. We trust that it is safe to drink, cook with, bathe in, and so on. Occasionally there’s a water main break or scheduled maintenance that involves temporary water shut off. The County Bureau of Utilities communicates with residents as quickly and as thoroughly as possible so we know what to expect. It’s an inconvenience, absolutely. But it doesn’t call into question the safety of our local water supply as a whole.

Yesterday was different.

When I read this statement from County Government I was somewhat reassured, but I was still left with the question: where does Columbia/HoCo water come from, exactly?

IMPORTANT: Due to preemptive actions taken by the County's Department of Public Works, all risk associated with the “boil water” advisory issued by Baltimore City's Department of Public Works for any area of Howard County has been eliminated. 

While Baltimore City has issued an advisory ( based on E. Coli contamination in a West Baltimore distribution area that does serve some portions of Howard County, the County's Department of Public Works has shut down pumping equipment in that distribution area, and water is being provided through alternative redundant means. 

There are no impacts on water pressure or safety anywhere in Howard County and out of an abundance of caution, enhanced testing is in place to ensure the quality of our community’s water.

I’m sharing the following with the caveat that it is merely “something I read on Twitter.” (@the_megalopolis) If you have more accurate information please let me know. I can think of a few people I know who are probably well-versed in this kind of thing. Anyway, here goes:

The bulk of Howard County's population gets its water directly from Baltimore City filtration plants, except a small portion east of 95 and south of MD-175 which gets it from WSSC (a joint utility of MoCo and PG County.

The reason Howard County is not impacted is that they aren't in the Second Zone of the water distribution map. Specifically the boil advisory is going to the portion of the Second Zone that is served by Ashburton filtration station via gravity rather than Montebello via pumping.

Did you stop and think yesterday about where we get our water? The interconnectedness of Baltimore City water supply with the surrounding counties had many of us extremely concerned. One of my daughters lives in Harbor East, the other at UMBC. My first thoughts were of how this might affect them.

It’s really quite amazing that we can turn on the tap and trust that our water will be safe. We shouldn’t take that for granted. Maybe taking some time to understand how it gets there and where it comes from would be a good thing.

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