The combination of record-cold temperatures and an aging infrastructure has led to all sorts of problems regarding water mains in Baltimore City.
So far this year, the city has dealt with more than 350 water main breaks, Baltimore Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher said. That represents more than a third of all breaks reported in 2013.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is aware of the problem and addressed steps the city is taking to handle an unprecedented number of water main breaks.
During a Tuesday news conference, Rawlings-Blake, along with public works director Rudolph Chow, elaborated on the toll the recent extreme weather has taken on the city's water mains, service lines, valves and meters. They also discussed efforts to address these immediate issues and steps citizens can take to protect their own plumbing.
City officials said water-related service requests jumped 142 percent above average for January alone. The city is investing over $300 million during the next five years for new water mains.
"We pride ourselves on being responsive," Rawlings-Blake said. "But there are only 24 hours in a day, and we don't have an unlimited supply of DPW workers. So we use our workers in the best way possible. And they have really stepped it up with the number of hours that they work."
There are steps you can protect your home from a break. This includes making sure your outside water faucets are turned off. You can also leave a very thin stream of water running anytime the temperature is below 25 degrees, and make sure exposed pipes are insulated.
Also Tuesday, Rawlings-Blake announced that Chow has been confirmed by the Baltimore City Council to be the DPW director. Chow's appointment follows the departure of the department's former director, Alfred H. Foxx, who, last December, announced the end of his tenure, effective Jan. 31, 2014.