Baltimore City and County Examining Water Management Amid Ransomware Attack

    Baltimore City and Baltimore County have been sharing water and sewer services under an agreement that dates back to 1972.

    That could soon change.

    Baltimore County Executive John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. (D) and Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) announced Monday that the city and county will initiate a joint review of the business processes that govern the water delivery system that serves both jurisdictions.

    Residents of both jurisdictions receive water through a system managed by the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, under an agreement that dates back to 1972, and an agreement reached in 1974 governs the shared sewer system. Baltimore City bills all customers for water use. Each jurisdiction bills its own residents for sewer charges and other related charges.

    Given the age of the agreements, officials in both jurisdictions agree there is a need to evaluate their efficacy and determine whether changes are needed to modernize system management and improve customer service.

    “I am committed to excellent customer service for every customer that relies on our water system,” Young said in a statement. Olszewski added that “This is just one of many ways that we hope to work with the City in the years to come to improve the quality of life across the region.”

    In addition, the city and county are sending letters to approximately 14,000 county residents regarding the sewer charges that will appear on their 2019 property tax bills. Water consumption data from Baltimore City is one of the factors that the county uses to compute the charges included in tax bills, but the recent ransomware attack in the city has affected computer systems that the county relies on to obtain information needed to validate the Metropolitan District sewer charge.

    Because of the ransomware attack, the county has been unable to validate a small percentage of accounts. The Baltimore Sun reported Monday that the city has been unable to send water or sewer bills since the May 7 ransomware attack.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.