Jim Lees: How is this working for you?
I'm mad as hell and I do not want to take it anymore. But do I have a choice? Admittedly I am cranky and tired from living in a lovely subdivision in the city of Charleston (Mt. Alpha above Kanawha City) and still being delivered poisonous water for the seventh day straight.
But seriously, isn't this now the second decade of the 21st century in the greatest nation on earth? And yet in the capital city of the great state of West Virginia I can't get water piped into my house that is not the equivalent of a happy hour cocktail for a mechanical robot!
It's not like I have a choice about my water. Government has very nicely rigged the process so as to eliminate competition and create monopolies when it comes to public service. And of course we all know the lack of competition in a capitalist society is great for the consumer. So I faithfully pay the government-approved water company each month regardless of my satisfaction or lack thereof.
My main beef however is not with the monopolies but with the regulatory process, or more specifically the lack thereof. For the past decade I have watched politician after politician in West Virginia bow down to the industry-led efforts for less regulation and less oversight.
Jay Rockefeller being the exception, speech after speech for year after year tells me how bad government regulation of industry is for me and my quality of life while conveniently those same politicians sit like infant birds in a nest, mouths open waiting for the droplets of sustenance (think money) to fall from those clenched fists of the industrial titans.
So here is my question. How is this working for you? How do you like the fact that Jon Stewart openly mocks West Virginia by pointing out that the storage tanks for chemicals that sit about one mile UPSTREAM from the intake ports for our water supply have not been inspected since 1991?
How do you like the fact that no one in government even considered having regular inspections and an action plan in the event one of these wonderful companies that needs no regulations screws up and poisons all of us?
How do you like living in a world where you are told we need less inspections, less regulations, and less oversight of industry because it is much better for us?
Seriously folks, can someone begin to articulate a rational and reasonable plan for a fair and safe regulatory system that actually makes industry comply with the law and punishes them for failing to do so? Can we at least have regular inspections of dangerous substances and activities with real enforcement of penalties for violations so that my family and your family can have some reasonable assurance that we will not become sterile or die from cancer merely by taking a shower?
For goodness sake, government has and can do good things to keep us safe and improve our quality of lives. This is not rocket science. Pass laws that require industry to reasonably keep us safe. Hire inspectors who are honest to regularly inspect, and punish those companies that fail to comply with the law. I know this is really radical thinking but I thought Upton Sinclair was still required reading in our schools. Guess not.
Finally, I share one last thought. Is it just me, or does it seem reasonable for a water company that draws water one mile DOWNSTREAM from chemical storage tanks would at least find out what chemicals are being stored in those tanks years ago so that in the event ... oh never mind.
I need to go pour some bottled water over my head to get ready for work.
Lees is a Charleston lawyer.