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EPA grant to grow Baltimore water work force

Internships help young adults land jobs
Posted at 3:59 PM, Jun 25, 2021

BALTIMORE — It’s no small task delivering water to 1.8 million customers, and Baltimore is looking from within to replace its aging work force charged with that task.

Alexander Sears of East Baltimore is one of its new recruits.

“The YH2O program changed my life, because growing up in Baltimore City, you see a lot of crime,” said Sears. “You see a lot of your friends you grew up with die, because they’re trying to secure fast money in a crime-like way.”

Sears is one of almost a hundred young adults who have completed a six-month program called YH2O in recent years that has trained them to work at one of the city’s water filtration plants, like the site of today’s announcement in Ashburton, or to help maintain its 4500 miles of water mains.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan stopped off at the plant to award some of the agency's grant money from the American Rescue Plan to expand the program.

“I’m proud that one of the first recipients of these funds includes Baltimore’s YH2O program, which is receiving a $200,000 grant,” announced Regan.

It is an investment, which helps create a pipeline of new workers like Sears who already has landed a full-time job.

“I work in 804 Hayden Street. That’s Water Maintenance, so I’m the guy coming out that’s getting you back in water, fixing the water main breaks, fixing the valves, fixing the meters. That’s me. I’m hands on every day,” said Sears. "Actually, this is the first time I’ve been clean in about three months. I’ve been… (laughter).”

The city’s award winning YH2O internship program has become a national model adopted by other states like Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina.