Underscoring the Importance of Quality Drinking Water
A message from MWWA President and Tighe & Bond Sr. Project Manager Jeffrey Faulkner in the organization’s May 2022 Newsletter, Edition No. 222
The first week of May was Drinking Water Week. This observance is sponsored by the American Water Works Association to recognize the role drinking water plays in our daily lives. This year’s theme was “There When You Need It.” Isn’t that the truth.
Drinking Water Week fell on the heels of Earth Day, which was observed on April 22nd. These 2 events provided us a chance to celebrate and highlight the people who perform, and the work that they accomplish, to help ensure water is there when we need it. I hope everyone reading this celebrated in some way.
As part of my observance, I had the pleasure of speaking to students at a Worcester area college. I spoke to Quinsigamond Community College in an event entitled Tap Water Town Hall. It was co-sponsored by the college’s Environmental Science Program and Diversity Caucus. It was an enjoyable discussion in which I got to share my career experiences, the work I do, the people I get to interact with, and why I enjoy this profession. I was also able to introduce them to MWWA and describe our dedication to the advancement of the drinking water profession. And that through our educational and advocacy efforts, MWWA is committed to public health by promoting a safe and sufficient supply of drinking water to Massachusetts consumers. The students asked some great questions about lead service pipes, PFAS, bottled water, Environmental Justice, and a few other topics.
With regard to lead service pipes, with the lessons learned from the Flint Michigan water crisis, the Revised Lead and Copper Rule, and an infusion of federal money related to this issue we will see a concerted effort over the next 5 or so years to document and remove lead service pipes from our drinking water systems.
With regard to Environmental Justice, the profile for access to clean and safe drinking water profile has been raised in recent years. The state of Massachusetts provides the following description – Environmental Justice (EJ) is based on the principle that all people have a right to be protected from environmental hazards and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment. EJ is the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies and the equitable distribution of environmental benefits.
In March of 2021, Governor Baker signed An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. This law will increase the number of environmental impact reports required for some projects and increase outreach for projects in the vicinity of EJ populations through the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) permitting process. One great student question at the Town Hall was – Why is tap water so cheap, yet fresh water is such a valuable resource? It was nice to see people, who are not yet in the profession, recognize the value of water. Here is hoping that that person is able to attend some water rate hearings and Town Meetings in the future to offer their support for what is needed.
What I tried to leave the students with was to be an active participant in your community, speak to your water department, and learn about your water system. Become comfortable in knowing that public water suppliers are committed to providing clean and safe drinking water, but that infrastructure needs to be replaced over time and new treatment systems are required to stay in compliance with regulations. Public support is important for being able to obtain the funds required for these investments to ensure that the water will always be there when we need it.