The Office of Inspector General investigated a June complaint alleging that a Department of Public Works vendor did not get paid for a water-treatment process, which led to unsafe water in Baltimore City.
Residents in West Baltimore had corrosive and contaminated drinking water for days in July. The water tested positive for e.coli.
The complaint claimed water treatment chemical deliveries were disrupted due to the non-payment, placing Baltimore City's drinking water in jeopardy of not being safe to drink.
According to the OIG report, a DPW supervisor confirmed the vendor's deliveries were paused for approximately two weeks, and the water treatment chemical supply reached a critical level at two water filtration plants.
According to DPW personnel, lead and copper in the drinking water would create a health crisis and violate United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
On May 11, the vendor informed the DPW Supervisor and the BAPS Manager, that the vendor had yet to receive communication regarding its contract renewal and price increase request. The Vendor also requested payment of the City's past-due invoices so the City could avoid shipment delays.
About one month later, the vendor notified the DPW Supervisor and the BAPS Manager that the Vendor required payment for the City to continue receiving timely deliveries of the Water Treatment Chemical.
On June 8, 2022, the DPW Supervisor asked for an extension to make the payment because Montebello Plant I would be out of the Water Treatment Chemical without a delivery by June 10. The vendor agreed to deliver the Water Treatment Chemical but stated it must receive a minimum payment of $43,834.70 by June 13.
According to the report, the city did not pay the bill, comparing it to a contaminated drinking water situation that occurred in Flint, Michigan.
The DPW Supervisor explained that without the Water Treatment Chemical, the city's tap water would not be drinkable and would not pass Environmental Protection Agency regulations under the Lead and Copper rule.
According to the DPW Supervisor, the vendor did not deliver Water Treatment Chemical for approximately two weeks and confirmed that the Water Treatment Chemical supply at Montebello Plants I and II reached a critically low level compared to the amount normally stored on-site
The OIG found that the city had numerous past-due invoices owed to the Vendor.
When the vendor informed the city it would pause deliveries due to the non-payment, the continuous service of the city's drinking water became uncertain.
DPW coordinated with DOF and BAPS to receive an emergency procurement authorization and have the majority of invoices paid on June 15, 2022.
However, the OIG learned from the DPW Supervisor that Water Treatment Chemical deliveries were disrupted during this time, causing supplies at Montebello Plants I and II to become critically low. If the Water Treatment Chemical supply had been exhausted, the OIG learned an emergency health crisis would have ensued for city residents
In June 2022, the former director of DOF approved an emergency request from DPW to initiate a six-month emergency contract with the vendor for the water treatment chemical. The city then issued payment for most of the past-due invoices, and an emergency contract was authorized in July 2022 that included the vendor's requested price increase.
Just amazing levels of incompetence. Clean, safe water is one of the fundamental requirements for civilization.