In 2008, my father moved to the quaint town of Oxford, Mich. It is a charming place with a couple blocks filled with local shops, pubs and eateries that my wife and I will check out with the family when we visit every six months or so.
The drive to my dad’s home takes a tedious 5 1/2 hours. To keep myself sane I have to break the drive into sections. Chicago-to-Indiana border followed by Indiana-to-Kalamazoo. Then the final landmark is Flint, Mich. — or the last 40 minutes of the drive.
For those first seven years when I would drive past Flint, I would get angry avoiding large potholes on I-69 North and when I remembered Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary “Roger & Me.”
Today, it is a completely different story. The tragic water contamination story and its ensuing fallout has been one of the most maddening and heartbreaking to watch unfold in recent memory.
The crisis also has pushed water quality to the front of the line in our industry. In March I attended the Water Quality Association’s expo held in Nashville, Tenn., where talks about Flint’s situation were top of mind. In addition, I took in the Plumbing Contractors Association Midwest meeting in Chicago where the group held a panel discussion on lead-free potable water. (For a full report on the meeting and discussion, please turn to page 52 of this issue.)
On a basic level, what happened in Flint is not stunning. Many of us, especially in our industry, understand our country’s infrastructure is in desperate need for updates, enhancements or outright overhauls.
As Northwest Water Commission Executive Director Kevin Lookis stated during the PCA Midwest panel discussion, it is time to push our elected officials about making water quality a top priority.
“Two or three months ago, I would have said it is difficult to educate public officials on lead and water,” he said. “Since Flint happened now it is not nearly as difficult.
“You have a very captive and listening audience.”
Bev Potts, the executive director of the Illinois chapter of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association, added: “We are water people. We need to push that (to our customers).”
Here at pme, I intend to make sure the magazine is providing more information on water quality news, products, reports and beyond. For example, in this issue, I have put together a By The Numbers section that show statistics on how we as a nation feel about our water infrastructure. This is just the beginning.
What transpired in Flint is a travesty on so many levels and there were an array of ways to have minimized the crisis or outright avoided it. A portion of the responsibility falls on us to understand, educate, assist and prevent another catastrophe.
This is a flashpoint moment for our nation, and our industry has a major role to play. It is time to go to work.
This article was originally titled “A call to action” in the April 2016 print edition of PM Engineer.