Another Perspective

Solutions

Going to the well once too often.

By 1.27.11

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Four hundred thousand customers in Prince George's County, adjacent the District of Columbia, have been warned to boil their tap water because it may be contaminated. It was a little matter of a 54-inch water main that burst and produced a gush of water resembling Old Faithful and then produced a rushing stream that blocked, for a time, a portion of the major highway that surrounds the District. Several cars were destroyed by the eruption and a nearby business was damaged. Winter weather forced road crews to treat the highway to prevent the formation of ice. And soon word went out: boil that water, even if only to brush your teeth or refresh your dog.

In Prince George's and nearby Montgomery Counties, there were 647 main breaks last month alone among the mains that are 40 years old and getting frail. There is a move underway to get the federal government's money involved in what may be a multi-million dollar project.

Ah, but there is another way to save public money. Turn out the lights along public highways! It's being done on Route 100 in Howard County. State highway officials say about 75 lights along a section of the six-lane inter-state have been "deactivated" as part of a pilot project to see whether that state can cut its power use along state roads without affecting public safety. The next logical step would be to close major highways to travel from dusk to dawn. This has alarmed the highway folk at Triple-A, a spokesman reminding that drivers are not getting any younger and have trouble seeing well at night.

One fatal crash, warns Triple-A, may offset the savings in juice. Advocates of the lesser lights along the roads point out that car lights these days are more efficient than when the overheads were installed.

True. Perhaps we'd be better with communal water wells to replace those danged mains also.

Think of all the interesting people you might meet down by the well with your bucket.

Caution here: remember to boil that water when you get home.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.