Thursday, September 15, 2011

Safe to drink?

"I got a notice in the mail two days after the boil order was lifted," said a friend to me yesterday, rolling her eyes.  She doesn't spend time on Facebook and had heard about the lifting through friends.

I got emailed the lift notice by the village clerk, and then shared it on Facebook, posted it here, and told everyone I met about it.  I'm glad that the village took the extra step of sending out an email, particularly since some water users didn't know about the health alert for two days.  Not everyone can be reached via email, and I'm at a loss to suggest a way to get the word out about a health crisis that is as comprehensive as the mail, but not as hazardously slow, although I've suggested some low-cost options like the email alert that could at least increase the message saturation.

The boil order was a pain, but it sure made me think about how we use water.  Every time I turned on the tap, or poured from a plastic jug, I pondered how fragile our dependence on water is.  We use it to drink, cook, wash, and flush away our excrement.  Some people say that after the oil wars, the fights will be over water.  It seems abundant here, particularly during a brutal flood season, but this boil order makes me realize that clean, safe water is not guaranteed and should never be taken for granted.

The lack of comments on my posts about our water and sewer problems makes me wonder what this blog's small base of loyal readers thinks about water safety and water usage in New Paltz.  Am I the only person who isn't in government who is concerned about water?


Martin McPhillips said...

I'll say this about the water supply: That I have never failed to be impressed with how quickly Terwilliger and his Village Department of Public Works get right at it and stay at it whenever there's a problem.

That's just another reason, and an important one, why there wouldn't be any benefit to taking a highly specialized group like that, which knows the village water and sewer infrastructure inside and out, and throwing it into a town-wide department where the priorities risk getting jumbled.

That department is precisely *what* the village is and *why* it exists. They handle the hidden Village of New Paltz.

Brittany Turner said...

I know this still wouldn't catch everyone, but isn't that the sort of thing channel 23 is best used for? Was the alert, and subsequent lifting, posted on the public access programming?

Brittany Turner said...

i know this doesn't fix the issue of reaching everyone, but isn't this exactly the type of thing channel 23 is for? was the alert, and subsequent lifting, posted on public access programming?

Terence said...

I believe I heard that the notice was on public access, but I have no clue how many people that actually reaches. We abandoned cable television shortly after we bought a home in the village, and our landlord at our last residence only had satellite. I suspect that public access is an idea whose time has gone before it ever really came.

Martin McPhillips said...

If there had been a real emergency, where the water was positively dangerous in the immediate sense of both positive and dangerous, then everyone would have been informed one way or another. This recent exercise was of a precautionary nature and not based on any known and immediate threat to life.

Had there been a true emergency every means of informing residents would have been used. The police, firemen, and DPW workers would have driven street to street. It would have been blasted out through all electronic and broadcast media. Neighbors would have been asked to inform neighbors, and they would have. It would have gotten done fast.

Depending on the severity, the water could have been shut off. If it was so very serious as to cause immediate harm, the state would get involved.

The sort of intermediate low-level warning system needed to get word out as a precautionary matter could take various forms, but it would require a less exigent approach than what would be used in a high-level threat.

It would probably not be a bad idea to have a considerable supply of reusable temporary street signs where the message that's needed can be generated (similar to how labels are generated -- only 20x the size of labels), slapped onto the reusable signs, and the signs are posted at strategic intersections, with a broad definition of strategic.

People tend to be oblivious to such things unless they hear it first hand, like an ugly rumor, so there is, in the end, a use for the primordial gossip mongers found in any small town. Get the word around ASAP, and they'll take it from there. Tell them that Mrs. Pancake over on Portmanteau Street has already fallen into a coma and the news will travel that much faster, be repeated with much greater relish, and be taken that much more seriously.

Brittany Turner said...

You're probably right, Terence, but I'm at least glad to see it was being used in that way.