Local News

Durham Leaders Question Response to Water, Waste Problems

Posted January 31, 2007

Durham Skyline
In recent months, Durham’s waste and water services have fallen out of compliance with state regulatory agencies. Now, some people are expressing concern that not enough is being done at the top to address the problems.

In September, a massive yard waste fire cost the city $300,000 to clean up. A subsequent investigation showed the dump had been operating without a license. This week, the city's water failed to meet federal health standards after city employees failed to turn in all tests the state requires.

“We've got to turn this ship around,” said Durham Councilman Eugene Brown. “We're a $300 million public corporation and our citizens deserve better than this.”

Brown said he blames the problems on various city employees. However, he said city manager Patrick Baker needs to step up to the plate.

“He's the one who need to lead us and needs a better staff behind him,” Brown said.

Baker said he was up front about both incidents.

“I knew what I was getting into when I took this job and I don't have a problem with that,” Baker said. If there's a problem on my watch, I'll fix it.”

After the yard waste fire, Baker made major personnel shifts, although no one lost their job. He said he will also review the water situation to see if changes need to be made there.

Mayor Bill Bell said he has confidence in Baker, but believes the city should have acted more quickly when it came to damage control.

“I've said to the manager, ‘If we've screwed up, say we've screwed up and then move about the business of cleaning it up,’” Bell said.

Baker said that's what he's doing, and he hopes to do an citywide audit to determine which departments are in line with state regulators.

Other Council members told WRAL they don't believe the problems involving the yard waste fire and the water are systematic. Instead, they call it an unfortunate coincidence that they happened within months of each other.
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  • Go_Daddy_Go Feb 1, 2007

    "After the yard waste fire, Baker made major personnel shifts, although no one lost their job. He said he will also review the water situation to see if changes need to be made there."

    That's interesting. If you keep the same people on board, even though you move them around a bit, won't you get the same performance?

  • Fence Straddler Feb 1, 2007

    Durham, NC..........
    One of America's Leading Cities of "Mass-Chaos and Conspiracy", inside its' city management.

    Durham citizens have only one (1) hope: MOVE TO ANOTHER CITY!!!

  • superman Jan 31, 2007

    Yea he said if there was he a problem he would fix-- the fix was 300,000 no small fix I would say. Baker may be up front reporting the problems but he is paid to fix them -- they knew about the waste treatment and then they hid the lead problems. If that is as up front as he can be-- he needs his butt kicked out the back door. Sounds like Baker is doing what he should have been doing when he accepted the job-- making sure they were in compliance with federal, state and local regulations. Some people just wait and have to be told what to do. Crooked politicals are one thing-- but when residents drink water contaminated with lead-- that is really getting close to home.

  • mrduffin Jan 31, 2007

    The city leaders who are supposed to fix these problems are the same group who has supported Nifong. You can't fix a problem until you admit there is one and these folks are in a state denial. Let's see..we now have an absentee police chief, a crooked DA, a contaminated water system, and questionable waste management system. Oh yeah....things are good in our fair city.

  • NC_VET Jan 31, 2007

    Problems are an unfortunate conincidence? Yea right and pigs
    can fly. What it really means is "more taxes" and the Council
    members get a pay raise.

  • NC_VET Jan 31, 2007

    "Other Council members told WRAL they don't believe the problems involving the yard waste fire and the water are systematic. Instead, they call it an unfortunate coincidence that they happened within months of each other."

    Yea right and Pigs can fly! Actually it more than likely means
    we get "More Taxes"

  • cassiodorus Jan 31, 2007

    Wait a minute. Coincidence? How about people who state that they didn't know what the law, and regulations, required of them? What about the trash pile from hell that didn't respond to regulator's requests? Or the lead-in-the-water reporting that didn't follow regulatory procedures? The problem is a city with a $300 million budget being run like an out of luck town that can't figure out that the people's money is being wasted on fines, and, yes, on salaries of people who are not qualified.