The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Non-User Fees... Western Tribune column

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.


Joe said...

An elected official said in an email that they "do not believe it is fair or right to charge someone for a service that they do not use."

I know many people who pay property taxes for schools yet they send no children.

Drew said...

I like this one.......I work in the city of B'ham and have taxes cut from my income that go to the city of B'ham. Why can I not vote in the elections held by the city of B'ham? This infuriates me and always has! I call it Taxation without representation....

Joe said...

Another option is a yearly inspection and maintainence fee of septic systems not connected to the sewer. After all, there are a lot of them them that do not function properly.

Joe said...

By the way, I am not looking at this as a way to pay off the sewer debt, really. I am looking at it from a public health view.

The only solution for the sewer debt is bankruptcy.

Anonymous said...

there is absolutely no reason for a nonuser of anything to pay a fee for anything they dont use. no reason.
"another option"....for what...for money. that has nothing at all to do with public safety or health. public health wasnt a consideration whatsoever before the need for money arose.
and can you give me an example of anyone becoming ill or being endangered from a septic tank here?
my septic tank might very well be better for the environment and for public health than the countys sewer system. not meant to be a joke.

Joe said...

You don't have to "use" something to get a benfit from it.

As for illness, not local but:

"A septic tank sited uphill from a well was the cause of 135 cases of illness due to Norwalk virus in 1986 at a South Dakota campground (MMWR, 1988)."


I'm sure I could find more. Just a quick google search found that one.

Anonymous said...

Joe, as we talked last night, I don't think it is unreasonable for non-uses to pay such a fee. It's a shame that so many millions of dollars have been wasted on this boondoggle - and I hope that any who corruptly profited from this project be prosecuted and punished - but this is a problem for all of us us and we need to work together to fix it. That is what we do as Americans, as citizens of planet earth. Whether we like it or not, we are our brothers keepers - and if everyone lived like that we would have a far better nation and world.