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OPINION: Meriden grapples with drinking water problems

OPINION: Meriden grapples with drinking water problems

One of the advantages of having been around for a while — and if you’ve been around for a while you want to treasure the advantages you have — is the perspective that comes with change.

So, if you were around in the 1970s you remember what pollution was like, and it wasn’t good. Google “1970s smog NYC” or “Los Angeles smog” or something of the sort and you can see for yourself, although there was nothing quite like being there in person because it was a multi-sensory experience. From this perspective it’s hard to accept without rancor the current trend toward easing environmental restrictions. A not-so-fun New York Times headline fairly recently read “67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.” It’s hard to imagine how business will profit if customers are choking to death. Anyway...

I don’t like government interference, at least in theory. In theory, I think the less government the better, but then I remember smog-ridden skies. Then I think of a very particular memory of a pancake-shaped cloud of smoke above the ice during a Ranger game at Madison Square Garden (some time in the 1960s) and marvel at how in just a few decades a smokers’ world  transformed into a world where a smoke-free society seems attainable — and you have to give government credit for that. Then I worry I may be liking government too much.

Government activated a trigger that recently led to notifying about a third of Meriden’s residents that the quality of their drinking water was compromised. Unless you’re from Flint, Michigan, drinking water — like clear skies, at least for the moment — is something people tend to take for granted. So when an alert goes out that something may be wrong, people are going to get upset.

You wish things could be broken down into more simple forms, as in “bad stuff” or “what you don’t want in drinking water,” but the world is a more complicated place. So we get haloacetic acid, a byproduct of chlorine used to disinfect water. A test found elevated levels of the stuff at two of eight testing spots. Finding the elevated level spurred a process in which the public had to be notified in 30 days. These were Tier 2 violations, which are not considered immediate threats but could have long-term effects.

As the Record-Journal reported, after the exceeded federal limits were found in January and February, adjustments were made and testing in March and April found the levels at half the maximum concentration. Dennis Waz, the public utilities director, has said the culprit involved shutting down the Evansville treatment plant for repairs. He provided other details about the situation earlier this week, though there were those who felt the city should have notified residents earlier about the way things worked out.

Though affected residents were notified within the 30-day timeframe, Waz said, “ideally, I would have liked to have gotten this out earlier.”  That would certainly help, because anything that might impact health is fundamentally frightening and the best efforts should be made the reduce fears.

But though it may have taken longer than people would have liked, those affected were notified under the guidelines, have received a detailed explanation of what went wrong and why, and have been told the city is looking to hire a consultant to help keep it from ever happening again.

Plus, people now have a better understanding about what’s involved in delivering their drinking water. That type of understanding is going to increasingly come in handy, one suspects, given America’s leadership at the top when it comes to environmental issues.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or