Pipes get old

A while back there was a brouhaha about repairs to the Alaskan Oil Pipeline. That was one of the largest private ventures ever attempted and a big deal because of environmental concerns. It is hard to believe but the pipe has done its thing for its entire expected lifespan with very little to notice. Now it is getting old and needs some TLC to maintain its standard of uneventful carrying out of its purpose.

The Alaskan Pipeline isn’t the only pipe suffering from old age. Thomas Rooney talks about his Pipeline nightmares in a Washington Times commentary. His worry is a lot more local and a lot more immediate and one we also don’t hear much about and one the MSM isn’t much interested in.

The oil pipes received a lot of attention. But remember: No one died. No one got sick. No pristine land was despoiled. It will cost us some money.

But only a few people are talking about the broken pipes really do hurt our environment, get people sick, cause deaths and cost us even more money than oil pipeline shutdowns. Those are sewer pipes, of course. Even the worst Alaskan oil pipe is in better shape than the average city sewer pipe.

Say what you will about oil spills, but they are usually small and in remote areas where damage to human life, property and wildlife is minimal at most. But I’ve seen enough of both to know this: Crude oil is much cleaner and less toxic than sewage. And oil spills are much less common. Yet oil gets all the ink, while sewage escapes scrutiny.

In many communities the pipes are well past expected life spans and just waiting for a catastrophic failure. It seems it takes more than that to prompt fixing while it is still relatively inexpensive. One example is in an area of Washoe County in Nevada.

The community was in a typical Nevada Basin and population growth had raised the surface water level to such a point that ditches near the school were filling with septic system effluent. That, and the demand for treated waste water for golf courses, prompted an entire communiy’s streets to be dug up, sewer pipes installed, and water pipes replaced (the water losses from leaks had been significant, too). Then the county charged the folks in that community, many elderly and with only social security, twice for all the work. But at least those who could tolerate going from $20/mo to $100/mo un utility bills now have city water and sewer and resurfaced roads!

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