Sunday, August 17, 2014

A water main break almost wipes out the entire water supply of New London, Connecticut. A WPA could have prevented that.

(WPA workers building a water reservoir in Elkton, Maryland, 1935. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

On Thursday, August 14, "A massive water main break...threatened the drinking water supply in New London and Waterford (Connecticut)..." The water main break caused the loss of 8,000 gallons of water--per minute--and "Had the leak continued, it could have collapsed New London's entire water system." According to New London Public Utilities Director Joseph Lanzafame, "This was nearly a catastrophic system failure. If it had taken us an hour or an hour and a half longer to locate the break, we would have reached a point of no return. Residents and businesses throughout New London would have been without clean water for the next month." Lanzafame suspects that the age of the water line--more than 50 years--played a role in the break...(see "New London Water Main Break Contained, State Of Emergency Lifted").

These types of age-related breaks are occurring all across the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers has informed us that "There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States." For two interesting and recent stories see "Serious water main break creates problems at UCLA" and "Water main break prompts boil water advisory for section of Prince George's County."

We could create a new WPA to modernize our infrastructure. After all, between 1935 and 1943, the WPA installed 16,000 miles of new water lines, and much of it is still in use today (long past its intended lifespan). Unfortunately, many conservatives today would consider this type work & construction program to be "godless communism," and a "handout" to the unemployed. And the fact that their icon, Ronald Reagan, praised the WPA in his autobiography probably wouldn't change their opinion a bit. Others would cry out, "We can't afford it!!"--even though (a) tax rates on the super-wealthy are historically low, (b) we spend more on our military than almost every other nation combined, (c) the total bill for our involvement in Iraq will likely exceed $6 trillion, and (d) we lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue--every single year--due to tax evasion by many super-wealthy Americans and due to tax avoidance by Corporate America.

So, our irrational fear of raising taxes on the wealthy, our refusal to consider the unemployed as anything but lazy and unskilled parasites, and our unwillingness to crackdown on wealthy tax evaders & tax avoiders, means that our drinking water infrastructure is likely to get worse--much worse. It seems that we're willing to sacrifice the cleanliness of our drinking water, if that's what it takes to serve the almighty "Job Creators." Isn't that amazing?

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