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Schools compete contest to keep clogs out of city drains

Posted at 11:39 AM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 11:39:43-04

BALTIMORE — A campaign to make Baltimore residents more aware of what they flush down the drain has four participating city schools competing for a share of $5,000 in prizes, the Department of Public Works announced Thursday.

After the 2017 discovery of a disgusting, massive sewer clog known as a ‘fatbergs,” the “Clean the Drain Campaign” hopes to inform residents of the consequences of pouring substances like fats, oils and grease down drains or disposing of “flushable wipes” down the toilet, as the cleaning products are anything but what they’re marketed as. Materials like that should be disposed of in the trash instead of the drain. Small behavior changes like that can make a big difference in creating back ups and blockages in the city’s underground infrastructure.

Through Friday, May 24, residents can log onto and pledge to dispose of cooking grease and wet wipes in the trash, where they belong, assigning that pledge to the school of their choice. The school with the most pledges wins the contest, though all schools should claim some funds, as first place takes a $2,250 prize, second takes $1,250, third takes $750, and fourth place takes $250. A bonus $500 will be held in reserve as an incentive to reward extra efforts by students.

READ MORE: Baltimore DPW's meeting on consent decree for sewer system

The participating schools are:

  • Bernard Harris, Sr. Elementary
  • Harlem Park Elementary/Middle
  • Robert W. Coleman Elementary
  • Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle

“Everybody wins when Baltimore residents keep used cooking fats, oils, grease, and wipes out of their drains,” said DPW Director Rudolph Chow, S.E. “Homeowners avoid calling the plumber, and DPW reduces the bill that ratepayers have to foot to clean out clogged sewers.”

To level the playing field among student bodies of different sizes, the number of pledges for each school will be divided by the number of enrolled students, essentially making the winning metric the number of pledges per student. The contest is being sponsored by the DPW and the Ridge to Reefs nonprofit, who gets funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.