In Prichard, Alabama, more than half of the city's water leaks out of the pipes

Discussion in 'United States' started by kazenatsu, Mar 6, 2024.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Many people do not realize there are parts of the U.S. that have been in long-term economic decline for 50 or 60 years. This story is about one of those places.

    Prichard is a city less than 5 miles (only 5 minutes travel time by car) north of Mobile, Alabama.

    Many people don't know anything about this area so let me try to give a very brief overview. Alabama is a little bit of "white trash state". During the days of Slavery, most of the plantations and wealth were in the neighboring states of Georgia and Mississippi (on either side, to the east and to the west). Alabama sort of got skipped over. Mobile, Alabama, is in the south, on the Gulf Coast. Normally it would be expected that the city in the state with ocean access would be more wealthy, but that's not really true in this part of the country. Due to a variety of factors, this Gulf Coast region of the U.S. actually has a lower population density than further north. These factors include the uncomfortable combination of heat and high humidity in the summer, the hurricanes that can cause damage to buildings, and the high water table that can make it difficult to have stable foundations for buildings. The ground is also very muddy and it can be difficult to get access to supplies of fresh water suitable for drinking and bathing. That, in fact, is what this story is about, water.

    For many decades, the water pipes beneath the city of Prichard has been corroding, cracking, and falling apart. The city experienced population loss and economic decline and did not have the money to fix or replace the infrastructure.

    It has now reached a point where it is so bad that the city is losing more than half of its drinking water to leaks in the pipes.
    The city of Prichard buys its drinking water from the nearby city of Mobile.

    More than 30% of Prichard's residents live in poverty.
    90% of the population in Prichard is Black (African ancestry).

    These problems have resulted in very high water bills, which many poorer residents struggle to be able to afford.

    The article describes one case where a woman's house burned down because the fire hydrant that was nearby did not work.

    In some cases the leaky water pipes result in puddles and flooding.

    The Prichard water and sewer department was shaken by an embezzlement scandal, after it was sued by a bank for defaulting on a $55 million loan. So it sounds like there are corruption and mismanagement problems.

    Jackson, Mississippi is another city that has a similar problem.
    In the enclave of Highland Park, in Detroit, where the population halved in the past 20 years and is 83% smaller than its 1930s heyday, an estimated 70% of the water is lost from pipes up to 120 years old. There have been water contamination problems in Flint Michigan, which the city could not afford to fix. Several Chicago suburbs likely are losing more than 40% of water.

    Trillions of gallons leak from aging drinking water systems, further stressing shrinking US cities , Tammy Webber, Associated Press, March 4, 2024

    This is an example of some cities beginning to fall apart due to lack of infrastructure.

    Do you know what I find notable?
    The U.S. spent $1.2 trillion in the so-called "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" in 2021. But in reality, only a very small percentage of that spending went to things that would actually be considered traditional basic infrastructure.
    There was the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ($831 billion), both of which at the time claimed the money would be spent on infrastructure.
    So three times American politicians have passed big spending bills, claiming that huge amounts of money was needed to fix America's crumbling infrastructure, but in reality very little of that total money ever actually got spent on real infrastructure -- the basic things like roads, bridges, and water pipes.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2024
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  2. modernpaladin

    modernpaladin Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    No one wins or loses elections based on the state of infrastructure, and so politicians dont want to spend money on it. ...especially when they know they can wait for it to break, declare an emergency and fix it with big daddy fedbucks instead. And now I guess they can squander that too.

    Time to dig a well and an outhouse. Make sure they're far away from eachother ;)
     
  3. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Unfortunately in this area it's not so simple as that. What's the expression? "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."
    That's definitely true in this area. The ground is waterlogged much of the year, there are plenty of ponds and mud. But the water is really not suitable for drinking. All that mud creates oxygen-deprived conditions and gives the water a foul smell, not to mention toxins produced by anaerobic bacteria, also high levels of arsenic from the constant leaching of minerals and stagnant water. The amount of filtration and processing that poor quality water would require is not economically worth it.
    In addition, in the areas where the soil does dry out in summer, there are droughts. Because the clay-rich soil gets baked hard in the summer and then cannot easily absorb water, the water just runs off. This paradoxically despite the fact that this Gulf Coast region gets plenty of summer rainfall.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2024

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