MARYLAND (FOX 5 DC) - Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh believes the state’s drinking water could be at risk.
Frosh sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan Wednesday warning that the state agency in charge of the state’s 3,300 public drinking water systems is dramatically understaffed and underfunded.
"There are 5.5 million people in our state who drink from public water systems whose safety we’re not sure of," Frosh told FOX 5 on Thursday. "We don’t know whether there are organisms in the water. We don’t know whether there’s lead in the water. It’s a real public health issue."
In the letter, Frosh goes on to say that a report commissioned by the EPA found that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Water Supply Program needs roughly 187% more full-time employees and 93% more funding.
Frosh also said that the national average number of inspections a full-time employee can perform in one year is 67. However, Maryland’s inspectors are required to conduct nearly four times that with 240 inspections per year.
"I want to see the resources beefed up from the department of the environment. I want to see them on the job. I want to see them doing the inspections," Frosh explained. "We know what happens in places like Flint, Michigan when our environmental regulators aren’t on the job."
The Maryland Department of the Environment sent FOX 5 the following statement in response:
"The Maryland Department of the Environment has been working closely with the EPA and others over the last several months to address potential concerns about staffing levels. Our programs, along with partnerships at the local level and with the EPA, are strong and they continue to deliver safe and sustainable water to Marylanders. The EPA report is not about the quality of the drinking water in Maryland, and similar reports have been completed for other states in the region to assist with planning for what is on the horizon in terms of federal drinking water requirements. MDE’s drinking water program experienced many retirements at the beginning of the pandemic, but a succession plan was in place and we are working on filling remaining vacancies and directing MDE resources to further staff the program. The EPA report is a welcome critique on improving our operations to ensure that we continue our longstanding success in ensuring safe drinking water in the state."
When asked what Marylanders should do for the time being, Frosh said he believes this is "cause for concern, not cause for alarm."
He added that he continues to drink Maryland tap water but wants assurance that it’s safe.