I like it when I can add visuals to my columns, and this week I have.
Think about this when you are in a conversation about the proposed sewer non-user fee.
Western Tribune column February 18, 2009
Sometimes there is a great misunderstanding that leads people to their opinions and this is the case with our sewer debt crisis. A web poll by this paper led me to write this column, which I am sure will be unpopular.
The question was whether non-sewer users should be charged a fee. Conventional wisdom says “Of course not.” But in reality, the benefits of the sewer system to non-users are worth much more than the $20 or $30 proposed fee.
In 1854 in London a cholera epidemic was underway, and a physician named John Snow discovered the source of contamination using epidemiologic methods.
A particular source of drinking water, the Broad Street Pump, was found to be the source, but ultimately the cause was contamination of drinking water with material from a cesspit. Cesspits were dug to collect wastes which were from time to time collected and removed.
Without our sewer system people in our county would be forced to use cesspits or outhouses for waste collection. Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire?”
In one scene of the movie the waste collection system is seen and it’s not a pretty sight.
Without a sewer system, we might have something like that. Not all land is suitable for septic tanks, nor are they possible in the densely populated areas of the county.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 2 billion people in the world lack proper sanitation. One only has to look at the rate of diarrheal diseases and death, especially among children and women, in those areas to understand the importance of proper sanitation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “cholera was prevalent in the 1800s but has been virtually eliminated by modern sewage and water treatment systems.” In the past 100 years cholera has not been a threat in our country.
This is because of our sewer and wastewater treatment systems. Plus better understanding and education of the importance of hand washing and other sanitary procedures.
In view of the consequences, it seems that a few dollars is a small price to pay for the assurance that your baby or elderly parent won’t die the excruciating death that cholera causes.
The public, including sewer users and non-users, should reconsider their stance on this issue and be thankful for the benefits our system provides.
Now, about fairness of the current sewer rates, that is another story.