NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


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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