Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Sewage Du Jour

Even the most ancient of ancient civilizations going back to the Mesopotamians and Babylonians understood that when large groups of people live together there needs to be an infrastructure in place to channel and control the flow of human waste. The Greeks, the Romans even going way way back to the pre-celtic tribal communities of the Orkney Islands, all aspired to channel sewage away from living areas and supplies of drinking water. See historical timeline of sewer development. http://www.sewerhistory.org/chronos/roots.htm

Though 5,000 years ago it may have seemed like a no-brainer to build sewer systems and to protect wells from hazardous raw sewage, the attitudes in 2007 Central Bridge are, shall we say, slightly different.

The small hamlet consists of a lower-lying downtown area surrounded by hillsides that are fairly heavily populated. These homes contain very old septic systems, some of which are in danger of seeping into and contaminating groundwater supplies.

Despite the dangers involved in contamination of groundwater by leaking septic systems, the creation of a sewer district and the construction of a modern sewage system to replace the old septic tanks has been an elusive proposition for Central Bridge. Critics have complained that the process has left with too few options and that the creation of a sewer system may be far too expensive of a solution to a problem that is small by comparison.

Despite the potential for high construction costs, it may be best in the long run for Central Bridge residents and surrounding communities to make the investment in a municipal sewer system. In the short-run, the benefit is that it would help to solve any groundwater contamination problems currently posed by failing septic systems. In the long run current and future residents may save time and money by not having to maintain existing septic systems or building new ones. Residents would be pooling their resources to deal with a collective problem rather than leaving it to private individuals to have to deal with.

My personal take on it, is that I'd rather just plug into a municipal sewer system than worry about getting approvals for septic tanks and drainage fields and everything else. It's fine to complain that the costs may be too high, but then again, the costs of repairing damaged septic systems can be quite high as well.

16 comments:

Thomas Vincent said...

Sean, you are grossly misinformed and obviously you are not a taxpayer in Central Bridge. This small hamlet, as you call it, gets its drinking water from a municipal water supply, the reservoir for which is located at the top of Pine Hill, far away from danger of contamination of faulty septic systems. Get the facts straight if you ever wish to have any credibility. I am glad you choose not to bore the reader with “every detail” because you simply do not have them. If you think “keeping taxes down” is the result of a misdirected “myopic focus”, you are clearly not aware of what life is truly like for landowners in the “Empire State”…”Vampire State” is more like it. Grow up and look at the real world…

Sean Thomas said...

Thanks for your post, but I’m not sure which is spewing more crap: your faulty septic system or you!
As for the reservoir issue, I honestly missed that fact. It’s not like I’m getting paid for this and can verify every single assertion I make. Oh well. The point you make in attempting to correct me is clarifying though. Apparently Central Bridge residents do in fact get their drinking water from a reservoir. Clearly then, your faulty septic systems are not contaminating your own drinking water, just the drinking water of surrounding residents who do rely on wells. Well that’s different!
Clearly it would be foolish of you to vote yourself a tax hike in order to benefit someone else! This is why I suggested that subjecting this sewer system proposal to a public vote is a dumb idea. Not sure it should really be a choice, when those voting are not necessarily the ones most effected by the problem.
As for taxes in the “vampire state”, as you call it, (uh, I’ll try and remember that one) yes we have high taxes and a ridiculously dysfunctional state government. But I’m not sure what that has to do with the environmental hazard posed by your community’s current sewage problems.
As for “growing up and looking at the real world”, all I can do is turn this argument around on you, because to my understanding, in the real world, our actions have consequences that effect other people. Bitching and moaning about taxes while not caring about how the way you live effects others is not my idea of civic maturity or responsibility.

Sean Thomas said...

Oh and you seem to take exception to my description of Central Bridge as a "small hamlet". Am I crazy, or is Central Bridge in fact a small hamlet? Tell me were I'm wrong here, please!

thomas vincent said...

Sean, "small hamlet" is in fact a correct description, and I think it sounds much better than the official designation which is "Central Bridge Lighting District" ...
I quote you here: "It’s not like I’m getting paid for this and can verify every single assertion I make". That tells me a lot about what you write here, that is, the facts are only secondary to you making your point. No problem, it’s your blog, and you can say whatever you want. Perhaps you have a future in politics!
If the sewage problem in Central Bridge, and yes, I acknowledge that there is a problem, was actually contaminating someone else's drinking water, do you really believe that situation would be allowed to continue? No, it would not. There are laws against that.
Central Bridge is in many ways no different than any other similarly small community in upstate New York that is faced with decaying infrastructure, ever increasing tax burden, loss of businesses (jobs) and a state legislature and governor that have had their heads up their collective asses for several decades…and the newest Governor is no exception. The solutions to our problems are never easy and seldom come from government, but there are solutions. In fact, just as with electricity and wind turbines, technology can provide better solutions than those that were available even 20 or 30 years ago.
The “Sewer” was defeated, not because we residents don’t want to fix it, but because there are more appropriate alternatives that are less costly, both to the residents and to the environment than tearing up miles of streets and roads and burying 2 ft. diameter pipes to a depth that is required for gravity to do the transport. That’s how the Romans did it, so it cannot exactly be called “a modern sewer system”. http://www.eone.com/ has a better alternative (among others), and no, I have absolutely no connection to that company. Since only a fraction of the properties in Central Bridge are causing the problem, perhaps a more localized solution would be appropriate. A little time spent on Google reveals how other communities across America have dealt with similar problems. All I am saying here is that the defeat of the current proposal does not mean we residents don’t give a crap (pun intended) about our neighbors…

Anonymous said...

Entertaining Blog - don't mean to inject a different subject in the CB sewage debate but this just strikes me as funny. "Bitching and moaning about taxes while not caring about how the way you live effects others is not my idea of civic maturity or responsibility." but I just read elsewhere that this is just fine when one property owner wants to make money at the expense of his own neighbors by installing the "better solution" for electricity generation (a solution created by, paid for, and forced upon the rural populations by none other than your State and Fed Gov't) - beautiful, benign wind towers.

Sean Thomas said...

No – the facts are NOT secondary to me making my point, but at the end of the day I am human and do make mistakes. Believe me, it is not my intention to spout an opinion without backing it up.

I don’t disagree with your argument that there is more than one way to skin a cat: more options are always better than one! But as for your claim that if CB’s faulty septic system was actually contaminating neighbors’ drinking water, the state would put a stop to it - that’s not entirely accurate. The actual environmental impact of faulty septic systems in Central Bridge, as in other similar communities may be only marginal, but taken together they add up to a threat that is perhaps most dangerous because of how small it is, and how people simply ignore it, because it’s not some big bubbling toxic Superfund site. This is why I am for NOT ignoring such small threats and taking steps (and yes there are several possible steps to take) to ameliorate that threat, whether it be a threat to myself, my neighbors, or an expansive watershed shared by thousands of people.

In my original post, I employed a certain amount of hyperbole, and perhaps that was the wrong tack, given the stridency and emotions involved in this issue.

As for the anonymous poster, I’m truly sorry that you missed the point entirely about my remarks on the wind turbine issue. To me, it’s ironic that people believe their sacred and inviolable property rights extend only to themselves and that all other property, particularly those parcels that are part of a view shed exist only to prop up their own property values. Was I actually saying that one can do anything with their own property? Uh, no.

I feel bad for you if you somehow think you’ve caught me contradicting myself. Because even I did mean what I said literally, there’s virtually no comparison between faulty septic systems leaking raw sewage and wind turbines which actually are benign and beautiful (to some people). The only negative that can be said for wind turbines is that they interrupt the view sheds of exurban homeowners inordinately preoccupied with the exchange values of their property.

Resisting the development of wind farms is more likely to have net negative effect on society in the long run than actually developing them.

Next time, think before you ‘inject’ something into a debate.

T.V. said...

"...a threat that is perhaps most dangerous because of how small it is..."
wow...then is a LARGE threat (perhaps) the least dangerous??
"and how people simply ignore it..."
well, it's not really being ignored but whatever...
at least this discourse is to a degree entertaining, and exchange of ideas is always a good thing.
Carry on my friend...

Sean Thomas said...

"wow...then is a LARGE threat (perhaps) the least dangerous??"

C'mon, that's cheap and you know it. Major environmental threats are in some ways less dangerous because they mobilize people to do something and force governments to act. It's the small threats that are easy to ignore. And yes, I think plenty of people would prefer just to ignore the sewer issue if they could.

As for the quality of this discourse, well I'm happy to entertain you, that's why I'm here. But by all means feel free to take your posting business to another site, or better yet start your own blog, you sure seem to have the free time....

Walter F. Wouk said...

You should have a "fact or two" to "verify" your "assertions" before you
"flip the finger" of condemnation at a community -- by your own admission -- you know nothing about.

Is this blog credible? Or just another faulty septic system?

Sean Thomas said...

"Is this blog credible? Or just another faulty septic system?"

-Ughhh, is everybody a god damned comedian?

Anonymous said...

Someday we'll talk when you are all grown up and own some property. Be sure to seek out and invest in that great place next to a windmill. Your purely academic view will change. As for impacts of any land use I guess it is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Anonymous said...

Just an aside:
Look up "effect" and "affect."

While you're at it, look up the proper usage of "compose" and "comprise." (You haven't used those yet that I have noticed, but it's likely that, being young and on fire with political fervor, you will, and you'll gain even more credibility if you use them properly.)

Call me Anonymous #2. I'm not the other guy.

Sean Thomas said...

Thanks for a completely worseless and paintless post!

***worthless and pointless***
just to satisfy your inner english teacher.

Thomas Vincent said...

THIS IS A DISCLAIMER:
Had the title of this Blog been "Cobleskill Socialist Weekly" at the time of my posts, I never would have even visited the blog, let alone posted in it....
This is my last....

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