Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Water Main Break Had Massachusetts Residents Scrambling

A water main break in Boston had residents scrambling on Monday.
The breach was reported Saturday morning in Weston, about 10 miles west of Boston. It was in a coupling holding together two sections of a 10-foot-wide metal pipe that carries 250 million gallons of treated water a day from the Quabbin Reservoir to some 750,000 households in 30 communities.

Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and ordered area residents to boil the water coming from their taps since it didn't meet federal clean water drinking standards following a major water main break on Saturday.
And from Yahoo news:
a boil-water alert remained in effect for Boston and 29 surrounding communities. Health officials warned of the risk of a parasite infection if residents used unboiled tap water for brushing their teeth, washing raw vegetables or making ice. It remained safe for showering and toilet flushing, with one official likening it to lake water.

My son was visiting there on Monday and was amazed at how people were just waiting in long lines for the government to give them cases of "free" water. It was one per household and that had some people steamed since a household could have one person or more sharing that case of water. They had to show proof of residency to get the water too.

The thing is ... it's not like they had no water at all due to the water main break. Residents were told to boil water for 1 minute to use for drinking or cooking, since some untreated water has entered the system. It remained safe for showering and toilet flushing. So really instead of waiting for the government to give out water - they could have been home boiling what they wanted. Of course, along with the boil order came a warning to people to make sure the water was cooled before using it. (DUH)

Then there was a run on the water in the grocery store shelves... and some stores were price gauging and charging $15 for a case of water.

The residents' reaction to this crisis is not surprising, but it is sad how people have become so dependent on government aid - AND they expect the government to do everything for them including telling them not to be too stupid and to make sure water that was boiled was cool enough to use without one burning oneself.

Looks like we need some real lessons in civic preparedness in this country. Many will be totally lost if heaven forbid they get caught in a really really big crisis.

Have you thought about what you'd do in a real crisis?
I know I will make sure to let the water cool down after boiling it. (wink)


Julia said...

I don't believe that's a fair assessment of the reaction many Bostonians had to the water crisis. Yes, I boiled water, which turned out to be a good idea because soon the water in my area was brown, and you couldn't buy a bottle of water anywhere. What scared people was the lack of alternatives. After my water turned brown I didn't trust it even if it was boiled, and as you couldn't BUY water anywhere, the last choice was to accept government aid. If my job hadn't helped me out with this necessity, I would have been in that line too.

CO said...

Your (intentional?) pun made my day!

You said: "...and some stores were price gauging and charging $15 for a case of water."

Gauging as in "measuring" the demand for water is exactly correct. Gouging, not so much.

See Price Gouging Saves Lives and Do Hurricanes Cause Shortages? for an Austrian (liberty) view. The free market actually works (when left alone)!

CO in CT

David Aron said...

I have to agree with CO in CT...

Prices naturally rise during an emergency in response to diminished supply and heightened demand. This is a function of the free market. What those $15 prices of water do is tell people outside of Boston, who can buy a case for $5, "Hey, we really need water over here, and if you bring it in, you can make $10 profit!"

As water is brought into the affected area to take advantage of the high profit opportunity, the supply will increase to meet demand and prices will fall back down to $5 though the natural bidding down of prices that results from competition.

So, we NEED high prices during an emergency, since they help allocate scarce resources and attract those resources from areas where they are not as scarce.

This should also be a wake up call for people to keep a supply of clean water in their house at ALL times, since you never know when you might need it.