America's Environmental Report Card: Are We Making the by Harvey Blatt

By Harvey Blatt

An available assessment of an important environmental matters dealing with the U.S., with new and up-to-date fabric.

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The seriousness of leakage from water pipes is compounded by the fact that a break in a water pipe can be a gateway for harmful bacteria. 14 Making accurate estimates of the amount of money needed to modernize the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is difficult because of the lack of a national database to gauge the age and condition of existing infrastructure, as well as uncertainty surrounding future regulatory requirements and technological breakthroughs. 15 Currently local governments and ratepayers provide 90 percent of the costs to build, operate, and maintain public water and sewer systems.

Millions of gallons of water are lost every day in every major city in the United States. 7 New York City loses 15 percent of its water to leaks in its 6,000 miles of water mains, and ruptures occur five hundred or six hundred times a year. Buffalo loses 40 percent to leaks and Boston 36 percent. Pittsburgh loses 12 million gallons of water each year, 15 percent of its water production, because of breaks in water mains. St. Louis’s water system predates the Civil War. In 2007, Suburban Sanitary Commission crews in the nation’s capital repaired 2,129 breaks and leaks; 2008 was better, in that only 1,700 pipes broke.

The EPA estimates that as much as $400 billion in extra spending is needed over the next decade to fix the nation’s sewer infrastructure. 2). As an example of the cost of sewer maintenance to residents in a city, I can cite Portland, Oregon, which has some of the highest water and sewer rates in the country. The average residential sewer bill in the city has risen from about $14 a month in the early 1990s when the city began mandated improvements to $45 a month in 2007.

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