In midst of the headlines coming out of Flint, Mich., and now out of Hoosick Falls, communities are scrutinizing over their public water systems, and residents are showing a lack of trust.
Water is a valuable commodity in today’s world. It’s a trade that goes beyond the bottled water in your refrigerator. Large corporations are buying up the rights to freshwater lakes, and water starved countries like India are brokering deals to obtain more. Ironic, considering more than 70 percent of this planet is covered in water. Unfortunately, less than one percent is available for human consumption.
That less than one percent of water should be enough, experts say, but some communities in the world have established homes where water is scarce or polluted, or find themselves on the wrong end of a political battle that keeps them from it.
In the United States, outside of drought, we should be fine. Emphasis on should be. We’ve been a heavily industrialized society since the mid-1800s. It established this country as the embodiment of wealth and luxury it is today. Unfortunately, in what we’re seeing in Hoosick Falls, industry and the consumer-driven need for ease of life, is the culprit behind a poisoned water supply.
In Michigan, they are talking about a different animal all together — something likely to end up in courts for many years to come. What was a government body’s intent to save money has turned into a logistical and health concern nightmare. The community has been drinking water contaminated by decaying lead pipes, at a level that has created a national emergency. And, if it couldn’t get worse, the checks and balances in place to evaluate the water’s safety appears to have failed the people at a level of negligence people call on the side of criminal.
Flint serves as a benchmark of how community leaders should not act. Our local town boards have brought transparency to the forefront. It’s discussed every political season while we see candidates run for office, and we read it in our letters to the editor. Now, as we look to our water supplies, the need for transparency is an absolute must.
Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, some government leaders have lost sight as to what his or her role is in our communities. You serve the rights and needs of the people. When it comes to an infrastructure that facilities the supply of life sustaining water, there is no higher level of absolute trust than when a mother turns the faucet on to give her child a glass of water. When your responsibility is to oversee this service, you can’t lose sight of this fact.
Bethlehem town officials have been addressing these needs, but in light of what is happening other communities, it is easy to jump towards anger. As fellow members of this community, we ask that Town Hall continues to remain as transparent as it has been. Now, more than ever.