BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Attorney General Brian Frosh is calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to provide more funding for the Maryland Department of the Environment program tasked with keeping the state’s drinking water supply safe.
In a Dec. 1 letter to the governor, Frosh said the Water Supply Program overseeing 3,300 public drinking water systems in the state is both underfunded and understaffed, according to an EPA-commissioned report released earlier this year.READ MORE: Hundreds Of COVID-19 Tests Thrown Out From Ripken Stadium After Lab Shuts Down Over Outbreak
The consulting firm that authored the report, Cadmus, found the program needs to grow its staff of full-time employees by 187% and overall funding by 93% to provide proper oversight. There are currently 27 vacancies within the program, which is allotted 71 full-time positions, the report said.
Funding is short by more than $7.5 million this year, and as much as $10 million by 2025, according to the report.
Staffers in the program have seen their workload increase with the job vacancies and hiring freezes, and the ongoing addition of 350 new public water systems, the report said.READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Nor'Easter Snowstorm Arrives
In his letter, Frosh said the group has to “prevent public health crises like the tragedy we saw in Flint, Michigan,” where in 2014 lead seeped into the tap water supply, making the water unsafe to drink.
“Marylanders expect the State to ensure our drinking water is safe,” Frosh said. “The EPA has warned the Administration that years of underfunding and understaffing of the Department of the Environment’s Water Supply Program have compromised its ability to conduct adequate inspections and oversight, threatening the health of millions of Marylanders.”
Jay Apperson, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the agency has been working with the EPA over the last several months to address concerns about staffing.MORE NEWS: 'I Am Innocent': Marilyn Mosby Talks To Churchgoers About Federal Charges
“In spite of the Attorney General’s letter and attempts to politicize the matter, the state’s programs, along with partnerships at the local level and with EPA, are strong and they continue to deliver safe and sustainable water to Marylanders,” Apperson said.