Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Residents & businesses in Chicopee, Massachusetts lose their water supply. A WPA could have kept that from happening.

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

An 80-year-old pipe (perhaps older) burst in Chicopee, Massachusetts on Monday, August 18th. Three-hundred homes & businesses were left without water. According to journalist Jeanette DeForge, "The city has 274 miles of water mains and most are 50 to 100-years-old. Some are even older than 100" (see "Chicopee water main break leaves 200-300 homes and businesses without water"). 
Not only did the water main break deprive the area of water, it also ruined a brand new paving job on the road above it. And even though this is the second recent break of the old water line, the city does not currently plan to replace it. According to DeForge, "The problem is funding the project, since the department is also planning a major project to replace some of the oldest pipes in Chicopee Center soon."
The problem in Chicopee is a problem shared by thousands of cities & towns across the nation. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, "At the dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States" (see here).
If we had a new WPA, this aging pipe could have been replaced long before it caused so much damage. Unfortunately, America is in the grips of an anti-government hysteria so strong that we'd rather let our infrastructure deteriorate and wreak havoc on our lives, than offer jobs to the unemployed to modernize our infrastructure (as we did during the New Deal era). Isn't that amazing?

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