A nation of Flints: America has 1.2m miles of deteriorating lead pipes and they'll cost $1 trillion to fix


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/25/a-nation-of-flints-america-ha.html


$1 trillion to execute.

So a tenth of what the USA spent on Afghan / Iraq Wars? Seems reasonable to me.


Spend $1 trillion fixing pipes…

…alternatively, close down the EPA and no one need ever know that they’re being poisoned.

I wonder which one the Trump White House would prefer?


Teeny bit of quick math:
Assuming a 75 year lifespan on the pipes that we’d replace with (though I don’t know if that’s accurate…), that 1 trillion works out to about $11k/mile/year.
Which isn’t totally nuts.


It’s about two dollars per foot per year. About 1.5 cents per foot per day.

I would totally pay that.


In all seriousness, isn’t Trump proposing some massive infrastructure spending and doesn’t this fall squarely in the area of infrastructure? If the people running the US are smart and care about its citizens, then this is exactly one of the places where infrastructure spending will go towards.



Any way to know if a community uses lead pipes before you move there?


Side effects of lead poisoning

  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Difficulties with memory or concentration
  • Mood disorders
  • Aggressive behavior
  • low IQ
  • Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (McNuggets)

Might explain a few things about America


He’s proposing a massive public-private partnership along the lines of Tony Blair’s PFI ideas.

So water pipes will only get fixed if there’s a way for private companies to make money out of it.


Sorta. Is the community located within the United States? If yes, is the community younger than 30-ish years old? If the community is older than that and is located in the US, the answer to your question is most likely “there is lead in the system - in pipe joints, service leads and/or pipes inside the homes.”


And then they’ll own them…


Ok, Trump here’s your chance.

  1. Cut back on war spending.
  2. Provide free trade school training for recent high school grads and others. (Boost the number of people learning to become plumbers.)
  3. Develop an initiative to replace lead plumbing nationwide.
  4. Create loads and loads of jobs as a result.


Well, he’s already suggested cancelling the F-35, which would cover probably 3/4 of the needed dollars.

The question is, can we do this without local pols and their buddies skimming enough to triple the cost.


Having grown up outside the US it was customary to have reserve water tanks in your property. Often times on the roof. It circulates during regular water use so it’s not stagnant, but it prevents a home from being susceptible to water shortages. This may need to happen in the US, and having a filter for the water before it hits the tank may be necessary.

Also reminds me of a habit my grandma had. Since she grew up and lived in a barrio most of her life. She always kept a large 55 gallon barrel of water in the shower, wasn’t meant to be potable water but she kept it there in case of water shortages as well. Could use it to wash dishes, bathe, flush the toilet, etc.


Isn’t water infrastructure more of a local thing? I mean, I’m all about improving the nation, but why would I pay to put my local pipes in and repair AND pay to fix pipes in a completely different state?


There is some evidence that removing lead from gasoline was one of the major causes of the massive decrease of crime that the US has seen since the 80s.

I’m not sure how much I buy in to the causation, but if it is true that environmental lead causes crime, we could be seeing a massive increase in crime in the US unless this is addressed.


I’ve got some bad news for Americans: you’ve been underpaying for water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure for a long time. The lack of political will to raise these rates, the shift to various shades of privatization of utilities, and willful violation of EPA regs by Cities/Counties/States/etc. to the point where Consent Decrees have become the norm, over the past 75 years (or whatever) has lead to this point.

I’m all for subsidizing those who can’t afford the necessities of life, but the rates need to go up significantly to pay for the lack of maintenance, capital investment, and planning of the past, as well as the actual costs of new infrastructure. If we want to encourage alternative technologies and other forms of innovation, then much like pricing carbon we need to encourage this by pricing utility costs correctly.


In all seriousness, I wish we would start another round of public works projects again. Hell, I’d even let him frame it as “making America Great Again” if it got the job done.

Just in my neck of the woods I can SEE crumpling infrastructure in the way of bridges with rebar showing and the sides which used to have cement plates protecting the earth all messed up from erosion. In the summer I have seen water bubbling up from the ground for MONTHS because a main broke, but it was small enough it just sat there because bigger ones were breaking elsewhere.

This is just one city, but it is happening all over. We really need to get our shit in order and look at updating a lot of our infrastructure. Waterworks would be a great start given how vital it is.


Like all Sacrifice Zones, this one has a fence around it, with yellow metal signs wired to it every few yards:

WARNING. The National Parks Service has declared
this area to be a National Sacrifice Zone.
The Sacrifice Zone Program was developed to manage
parcels of land whose clean-up cost exceeds
their total future economic value.

Problem solved!

(from Snow Crash, for anyone who doesn’t recognize it; which you should read if you have not.)


Banning leaded gasoline caused a massive drop in lead poisoning cases for at least a generation. Of course it took a while to get the powers that be on board with the idea of doing stuff which prevents harm to the poorest children in the country.