Carrying the Bay State’s water

Although Massachusetts is currently experiencing a moderate drought, the Bay State is unlikely to experience water problems of California-sized proportions. But the Bay State does have a major water problem, it’s just one that most people can’t see.

The US Environmental Protection Agency recently projected the nation’s drinking water infrastructure needs and found that Massachusetts would need to spend nearly $8 billion to maintain its existing drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years.

Three years ago, the state Water Infrastructure Finance Commission reported even higher funding gaps of $10.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure upgrades and $11.2 billion in wastewater infrastructure improvements. That’s because in some places such as Springfield, the water and sewer infrastructure dates back to the 1800s, and local officials continue to scramble to modernize the systems.

According to the commission, there is a growing list of water infrastructure issues that Massachusetts has failed to address; such as meeting current environmental and health standards, security and redundancy upgrades in case of emergencies, system breakdowns, or terrorism; and failure of some water utilities to keep up with industry best practices.

Declining federal and state funding in infrastructure, water conservation efforts (which mean lower revenues for utilities), and other factors have affected the ability to invest in improvements.

The state’s water infrastructure issues have not experienced the same kind of sustained public attention as problems like the $7.3 billion in maintenance needs facing the MBTA. That’s probably because municipalities have yet to face a sustained crisis comparable to the MBTA’s winter 2015 system meltdown.

That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been previews of what could happen. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority faced a major water main break in 2010, which MWRA executive director Frederick Laskey called “everyone’s worst nightmare in the water industry.”

Though the water main involved was less than a decade old, the break, which affected 30 cities and towns including Boston, was a heads-up for officials about how quickly infrastructure collapses can produce potentially life-threatening conditions. The main took three days to repair and the episode merited a federal disaster declaration.

Like MBTA fares, municipal water rates do not cover the full cost of turning on the tap, but like MBTA riders, residents are likely to complain bitterly when water rates go up.

“The idea that people will pay more per month for cellphone service than they pay for their water and sewer, and that they get more aggravated by the water and sewer costs is a mindset we have to work to correct,” Steve McCurdy, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s municipal service director told AP. “People will think they can’t live without a cellphone, but they definitely cannot live without clean water.”

GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker announces a set of reforms at the troubled Department of Children and Families that are guided by what he calls the single, overriding mission of the agency: “to keep kids safe.” (Boston Globe)

A 2008 state law designed to diversify the ranks of flaggers on roads isn’t working as most of the so-called detail jobs are still held by police officers. (Salem News)

State Rep. Kevin Honan of Allston has filed a bill that would make public the records of campus police departments at private colleges and universities. (Boston Globe)

The Boston Herald says the Baker administration has inexplicably retained some high-salary Patrick administration hires in questionable state jobs.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Andover Selectman Bob Landry says he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Ethics Commission in connection with complaints filed by the local teachers union. (Eagle-Tribune)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh plans to offer free salary negotiation workshops for women in Boston. (WBUR)

Firing back at Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone’s defense of Black Lives Matter protesters who shut down I-93 last January, a Herald editorial says a judge should instead throw the book at them.

Easton could be the latest community in Massachusetts to raise the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. (The Enterprise)

CASINOS

Got questions about the MGM Springfield hotel design change? MassLive has some answers.

OLYMPICS

Keller@Large says remarks last week by US Olympics CEO Scott Blackmun expressing regret over choosing Boston as the host city shows he still doesn’t understand us.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A report from the Pew Research Center shows the percentage of immigrants in the United States is nearing the all-time high of a century ago and is four times the number that was here when Congress loosened the regulations 50 years ago to open the borders to immigrants from around the world. (New York Times)

House Speaker John Boehner, who announced his resignation last week, unloads on what he calls the GOP’s “false prophets.” (Politico) The National Review says unless Senate Republicans push Majority Leader Mitch McConnell out the door to follow Boehner, the GOP could lose its control of Congress as well as any chance for the White House.

Pope Francis met with clergy sex abuse victims on the final day of his US visit. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren offered a ringing endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement in a speech at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Cities and towns are being asked to fork over more money to keep their polls open longer and to finance other election initiatives ordered by the state. (Eagle-Tribune)

GOP front-runner Donald Trump plans to unveil a tax plan that would benefit those at the lower end of the income spectrum. (Time)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A survey being conducted by the SouthCoast Development Partnership seeks to find out from businesses what it will take to get them to invest in Gateway Cities. (Standard-Times)

EDUCATION

Two Littleton High School girls say the dress code and the principal’s interpretation of it are sexist. (The Sun) Telegram & Gazette columnist Clive McFarlane opposes the hoodie ban at South High Community and Burncoat High School, but accepts South High principal Maureen Binienda’s reasoning for it. An Item editorial takes no stand on whether hoodies should be banned in schools, but says we should leave the decision to the local school officials.

A new federal study shows students of all races do worse in schools with a high-density of minorities as opposed to students in schools with a low population of minorities. (U.S. News & World Report)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Only 10 percent of the state’s nearly 25,000 medical marijuana certificates went for one of the eight pre-qualifying conditions; the rest fell in an “other” category. (The Sun)

Electrical current is being studied as a potential treatment for a range of conditions from heart disease to overactive bladder syndrome. (Boston Globe)

Norfolk Sheriff Michael Bellotti, in an op-ed in the Patriot Ledger, says the state’s public health care system should foot the cost of treating prisoners who need Sovaldi, the miracle cure for people with hepatitis C that costs $84,000 for the 12-week regimen. CommonWealth looked at the controversy over Sovaldi and who should pay for it in its Fall 2014 issue.

A state report says a Sunderland nursing home gave the wrong medication to two hospice patients. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Royal Dutch Shell calls off the hunt for oil and gas off the coast of Alaska after early efforts yielded little. (Bloomberg)

COURTS/CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The New York City Bar Association urges reduction of mass incarceration by reducing mandatory minimum sentences and providing sentencing alternatives to prison. (New York Times)

Despite an overwhelming conservative record in his 10 years on the bench, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has been the target of attacks by Republicans largely because of his votes that kept the Affordable Care Act in place. (New York Times)

MEDIA

The executive committee of the Newspaper Guild at the Herald has recommended approval of the company’s latest two-year contract offer that employees will vote on Thursday. (Media Nation)