September 16, 2019 | 74° F

Water crises prompts more oversight

Like Flint, New Brunswick water affected by political corruption


Water is an essential nutrient: The body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Wherever water flows in this planet, you will surely find life (whether it is simple microbes or complex organisms). That’s why NASA’s mantra in searching for extraterrestrial life has been “follow the water.” Clearly, water is immensely integral to the subsistence of diverse sets life on this planet, and this doesn’t exclude human beings.

But what happens when our water supply has been compromised? It is bad enough that the United States experiences natural disasters such as severe droughts in California that greatly restricts available water, but in the recent weeks and months, government officials have fraudulently and poorly mismanaged drinking water for thousands of people within their jurisdictions. At the end of December in our own city of New Brunswick, Edward O’Rourke, 60, pleaded guilty to an accusation that charged him with second-degree corruption of public resources and third-degree violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act. O’Rourke was the former licensed operator of the New Brunswick and Milltown water utilities, and he had the duty to oversee two water systems to ensure quality and safety. However, he callously put many lives in danger by failing to perform proper testing and lying about results. According to an investigation by Elie Honig of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, there have not been any known health issues that arose from the incident, but it has been difficult to reach results due to the falsified data that O’Rourke provided. O’Rourke faces three years in prison.

A parallel event of exponential misfortune is the corruption that occurred in Flint, Michigan. President Obama declared a state of emergency in Michigan on Jan. 16 due to the toxic levels of lead in the drinking water, which has caused lead poisoning in many of the children in the area, some of the drastic cases including brain damage. The city of Flint was on the verge of bankruptcy, so in order to cut costs, it tried to cut spending on water by ceasing to purchase water from Detroit, and instead started to get water from the Flint River in 2014. In the same way that you would not swim in the or drink water from the Raritan, you shouldn’t swim or drink from the Flint River. People have accused Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan of knowing about the crisis long before it reached its peak, and have called for his resignation. It makes sense for state officials to be economical when there is a tight budget, but it should seem obvious not to tamper with the quality and safety of the water supply. Snyder faces harsh criticisms, but he is still in office and not deflecting responsibility and accountability.

There needs to be stronger and more stringent oversight over the environment and our natural resources, especially on something as important as water. Amidst these water crises, however, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives blocked a White House-sanctioned “Clean Water Rule,” which the Senate approved last year and would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to govern small waterways. Clean drinking water is a bipartisan issue, and both people from the political left and political right drink water,and therefore need clean and safe water to survive.

An old adage says that water is safe to drink after it has been boiled, but that isn’t true. Boiling your water doesn’t do anything for heavy metals, and the rate of pollution affecting our environment should therefore be regulated with the assistance of the government. Government regulation is highly more effective than sorting it out on your own and simply boiling water. We have seen how short-sighted money concerns have cost long-term societal good, and we need to make sure legislations that keep citizens safe, healthy and protected are passed.

The Daily Targum

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