August 17, 2006
A few months from now the oil will flow again in Alaska. The spill will be largely forgotten. Meanwhile, sewer pipes across the country are on the brink of catastrophic -- even fatal -- collapse. Not in the wilds of Alaska but right below your feet right now, right next to a source of drinking water, a playground, a lake or a beach near you, says Thomas Rooney, president of Insituform Technologies.
- Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency reported 73,000 sewage spills in America.
- Over the last several months, more than a dozen places in the United States have had the worst sewer spills in decades, if not their history.
Billions have been spent for clean-up, remediation and health-care costs because of these spills and for one reason: sewer pipes that are old, eroded, broken, even corroded to the point of nonexistence. There are almost 1 million miles of them in America alone, says Rooney.
- In Hawaii, earlier this year, 50 million gallons of raw sewage spilled from broken pipes onto the most beautiful beaches in the world; it put an entire economy out of business, sickened many and even caused one death.
- A study by the University of California-Los Angeles and Stanford University says water polluted with sewage sickens 1.5 million people a year in Southern California alone.
- Detroit has the same kind of problems, except all its sewage discharges go into the Great Lakes, a source of drinking water for tens of millions of people.
Bad sewer pipes are a problem we can no longer ignore, says Rooney, and it will only get worse:
- Most sewer pipes were built 60 years ago and only intended to last 50 years.
- Not enough people pay attention until they break; then it is too late.
Source: Thomas Rooney, "Pipeline nightmares," Washington Times, August 17, 2006.
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