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Back from the Brink, Again

October 16, 2007

Once again wiser heads prevailed at Monday night’s (Oct. 15) village board meeting, October 15. A series of impassioned speeches by citizens revealed that they were both concerned and confused about the proposal to add chemicals to Croton’s water. Unfortunately, instead of achieving clarity, the issues become more clouded with each successive meeting.

Major Complaints
A principal concern of speakers was that the Village had not publicized the issue of chemical additives enough. For his part, the Mayor insisted that wide publicity had been given in the past to the issue. An examination of published materials shows this to be untrue. The 2006 Water Quality Report, for example, mentioned the Chazen Group, but said that it had completed “a report on the feasibility of a corrosion control system to help alleviate complaints about discolored water, to lower lead and copper levels, and to help prolong the life expectancy of the water mains and service lines throughout the Village.” Note that nothing is said about additives.

Crotonblog would point out that postponing a vote on the question of chemical additives to still another board meeting is simply not a satisfactory reaction. If the Village were as proactive as it claims to have been, it would have scheduled an information meeting long ago at some place like the high school auditorium at which residents could gather and thresh out their concerns.

Speaker after speaker also implored Village board members to find a solution to the Village’s water-main problems, one that did not involve adding substances that might have a potentially deleterious effect on the health of residents, especially their children.

The Village’s Double-barreled Quandary
At the meeting, it quickly became obvious that the Village is facing two problems:

  1. Corrosion of the Village’s own water mains, largely made of cast iron and subject to rusting from standing water caused by stubs at the ends of dead end-streets; and

  2. A separate problem caused by the use in older Village homes of lead and copper pipes with lead-bearing solder joints.

The first thing the Village should do to give residents a handle on the problem is to exhibit a map showing the dates when the various Village water mains were laid beneath Village streets. Before the Mayor again uses scare tactics and assures residents that a water main-replacement program is financially unfeasible, the Village should demonstrate that it is aware of the magnitude of the problem and estimate the future cost of replacing aged mains.

The Village’s water emerges from Croton’s wells carrying no lead or copper. Nor does it pick up either of these metals in its journey through Village water mains. It is only when the water leaves the Village’s distribution system and enters each home’s pipes that a potentially dangerous situation arises.

Whatever difficulty the Village is having in convincing residents to accept chemical additives is largely of the Village’s own making. Presented with the problem of selling Village residents on the idea of injection of chemical additives into the Village’s water system, the Village made a fatal mistake. It hinged its campaign on the narrow need to combat rusty water in the Village’s own pipes, a condition that affects only a small minority of residents. On the other hand, combating lead and copper adulteration of Village water—a primary concern of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA)—was relegated to a secondary role in the Village’s sales pitch.

Politicians and bureaucrats famously lack imagination. This may explain why they gravitate to the ho-hum worlds of politics and bureaucracy. In typical politico-bureaucratic fashion, they botched the task of calling attention to a potentially serious health problem—namely, the very real possibility that lead and copper may exist in many a Croton household’s water.

Lead and copper adulteration of water after it reaches individual residences (and businesses) are (or should be) prime considerations—not how long the Village’s own pipes endure. As part of a campaign that would take an entirely different tack, a smart Madison Avenue advertising agency would have created a slogan something like “Your House May Be Killing You.” This would have been a great attention-getting device, and perhaps, in many cases, it would be true.

Loading the Dice, Marking the Cards
Another major problem with the Village’s campaign to sell the idea of additives is that it has not been honest with residents. The Village is required by law to test the water in selected location for adulteration by lead and copper. But does the Village take random samples from various parts of the Village? On Monday night, the Mayor admitted that the dice are loaded, the cards are marked, and the deck is stacked.

That’s right, instead of choosing houses at random throughout Croton, the Mayor confessed that houses in Harmon are specifically chosen for testing “because that’s where the older houses are located.” Harmon lots were first offered for sale in 1907, a hundred years ago. Advertisements proclaimed, “Sidewalks and water and sewage lines are already installed.”

If true, loading the dice by failing to randomly choose homes for water sampling has actually worked to Croton’s disadvantage. The levels of lead and copper in the homes selected by Croton for testing exclusively in the Harmon area are bound to show higher levels of these two metals. Random sampling would have made better sense, and probably would have resulted in lower levels. As a result of Croton’s manipulations, the Village is now skating close to the thin ice of EPA intervention—hardly something to be desired.

The Village’s position should be that contamination of water in homes by lead and copper is properly the homeowner’s problem, and can be solved with filters or by replacing metallic pipes with pipes of inert materials.

It is Crotonblog’s considered feeling that Croton should not be playing “Big Brother” and forcing residents to ingest unfamiliar materials under the guise of extending the life of the Village’s water distribution system, with control of levels of lead and copper as an added, but subsidiary, benefit. Correcting the levels of these two metals should have been the focus of the Village’s effort.

A Misguided Campaign
The end result of the Village’s present misguided campaign is that the Village is attempting to solve the problem of contamination of water in households by lead and copper that more properly should be handled by the individual homeowner. By leaving to each homeowner the task of solving the metal contamination problem, the Village would be demonstrating that it is not trying to play the role of “Big Brother.” And it could handle the less-serious problem of rusty water and deteriorating pipes without forcing residents to ingest undesirable substances.

For their part, residents would be required to take care of reducing the threat of lead and copper by taking matters into their own hands. This could include regular testing of water for elevated lead or copper levels, installation of simple filters at critical fixtures, and replacement of copper pipes and soldered joints within individual homes.

The tactic of postponing a vote on a touchy issue from meeting to meeting—with nothing taking place in between—is an old trick. Its purpose is to wear down opposition and to cause fewer and fewer concerned citizens to turn out at successive meetings. Unless concerned citizens are made aware of the choices facing them—and the Village—and take over the reins of government, the outcome will prove the wisdom of the adage that citizens eventually get the government they deserve.

What Croton’s Government Owes Its Citizens:

  1. Educational and informational sessions for Croton citizens well in advance of proposed major changes to goods or services offered by Village government.

  2. Immediate separation of the issues involved in the Chazen proposal. The “pipes” in the bodies of Croton’s residents and their health are more important than an extension of the life of Croton’s water mains, and should be the Village’s first concern.

  3. A clear picture of the state of the health of Croton’s water mains—where and when replacements must be made—and some idea of the future costs of meeting those obligations. Let’s stop attacking problems piecemeal.

  4. Encouragement of a testing program to measure lead and copper levels in most homes in the Village, perhaps with tax credits offered to homeowners who voluntarily have the water in their homes tested for these metals and furnish the results to the Village.

  5. Exploration of the cost of installing water filters, again possibly with tax credits to those residents who add them at critical locations within homes. Thus, toilets, bathtubs, showers, washing machines, dishwashers and garden hoses do not need filtered water.

  6. Above all, Croton owes its citizens what is owed to them in modern democracies: freedom of choice, an outcome devoutly to be desired in this situation.

Related:

On October 19, 2007 4:50 PM, ohio-to-hudson said:

Thanks. Ohio river then, Croton and Hudson rivers now, and happily. Grateful every day for the water I drink here, AND the discourse.

On October 19, 2007 3:46 PM, weewill said:

Ohio-hudson … thanks for the sound advice

coton - crotonites … shameful that someone from out of state has to remind us of acceptable behaviour.

Let’s get back to discussing what’s good or bad for Croton. The referenced dialogue serves no useful purpose and is truly an ugly distraction.

On October 19, 2007 2:39 PM, ohio-to-hudson said:

Dear Anti-Nazi, and…Dear Croton Follies Auteur: KWilly has brought up what I’ve also found to be seriously irksome and offensive- the recurring references to Da Mayor in 3rd Reichian terms. First of all, it ain’t funny, especially the fifth time around. Secondly, it’s facile and intellectually lazy. Surely there are more apt or creative comparisons, and the repeated ‘teutonic’ name calling makes y’all sound like xenophobes yourselves. One-dimensional portrayal of an ‘enemy’ advances nothing. But, mainly (third), it’s a destraction and a total turn-off to what could otherwise be snappy and enlightening discourse. Think about it. We could be talking constructively about water right now.

On October 18, 2007 9:39 PM, Just The Facts said:

Anti Nazi,

You really need to ratchet it down a notch. It is not appropriate to berate someone on this board for disagreeing with you. Nor is it necessary to call someone an A-hole. I actually agree with the substance of what you are saying, but you do our common cause a great disservice by lowering yourself to that level.

KWilly,

I mean this with no disrespect, but I think you are a bit naive as to how people act and what their motivations are. Now, while I doubt Schmidt intentionally wants people to die, I do believe he is acting in a very reckless manner with trying to force this thing through without carefull thought. I also personally believe that he may in fact be a bit unstable (e.g. Black Cow incident). Nevertheless, to me I don’t care if his scheme results in bad effects on the health of my family or me, I don’t really care if it was intentional or reckless, in either event he is culpable.

On October 18, 2007 3:16 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Kwilly isn’t trying to tell me how I must pronounce his name, is he? No matter whether his screen name is spelled Kwilly or KWilly or kWilly or kwilly, I pronounce it as if written asshole… Let me tell you why: His insistence that there is significance between the screen names written as KWilly and Kwilly is indicative of the sense of proportion this young man has achieved in his 18 years. Heaven help the future of logic and the scientific method!

As for the mythic 5-minute rule, why should any time limits be placed on freedom of speech? A Village Board meeting is no phony TV candidates’ debate that has to fit into neat little sound-bite segments so that eight or nine moth-eaten, has-been, lifetime feeders at the public trough can field softball questions and look like saviors of the nation in its hour of need.

I say, give everyone as much time as they want or need to make their point or fools of themselves at Village Board meetings. Anyway, Schmidt is already doing that for his friends. As for a Mayor and trustees who claim to be interested in what residents have to say, let them sit there and listen. They claim they are “volunteers” and not in politics for the measly amounts of money they receive—they do it to serve. So serve, already.

On October 18, 2007 2:12 PM, KWilly said:

Correction: The last comment was to Anti-Nazi not to Just The Facts

On October 18, 2007 2:05 PM, KWilly said:

Just The Facts,

1) The name is spelled KWilly not Kwilly because Kwilly sounds like (Quilly) and KWilly sounds like (Kay-Willy)

2) You say your sick and tired of 18-year old’s “lecturing” their elders. Well im sick of anonymous commentators resorting to Ad Hominem attacks. You give all the rational commentators a bad name. I don’t have a problem anonymity i just have a problem when it is used to say nasty things that people would not say in person. Why do you have a problem with 18-year old’s anyway?

3) I did not make the 5 minute rule up even though i have been an occasional violator by a couple minutes. The rule comes from the days of Elliot Adminstration when we actually had a good mayor who would enforce the rule. Mayor Schmidt only imposed the rule once on Monday and that speaker was up for 15 minutes. Bob Wintermeier was up for 15 minutes but he was uninterrupted because he was the only one to fully defend Schmidt. When the Chazen crowd spoke it was not during Citizen Participation and the 5 minute rule only applies to Citizen Participation.

Kevin W. Davis

On October 18, 2007 12:03 PM, TeaDrinker said:

I am sick and tired of 10- and 12-year-old child ministers preaching religion, and 18-year-old would-be politicians lecturing their elders. Where did this self-important little windbag Kwilly come up with a 5-minute rule?

There was no 5-minute rule imposed by Schmidt when the Chazen crowd made its pitch for putting foreign substances in our water. There never was a 5-minute rule imposed by Schmidt whenever Queen Maria Cudequest wanted to attack Georgianna Grant and then immediately sweep out of the meeting room, too regal and too busy to pay attention to the affairs of the common folk.

There never is a 5-minute rule imposed by Schmidt whenever Cudequest wants to read endless legal briefs and newspaper stories about waste sites in Ohio or Massachusetts, after which she ceremoniously presents trustees with voluminous copies. I didn’t hear Schmidt telling her she was off topic those many times. So how come fluoridation was off topic Monday night for those who wanted to make pertinent comparisons with zinc orthophosphate?

There never is a 5-minute rule imposed by Schmidt on himself whenever he wants to talk about the “big article coming out in Consumer Reports magazine on lead” and similar lies. Pure bullshit. Hitler was a master of the big lie.

There never is a 5-minute rule imposed by Schmidt whenever Minnet wants to talk about Zeytinia’s garbage or early morning trailer truck deliveries. By the way, that complaint was common when the Grand Union was there, and the Grand Union was there when the Minnet’s bought their house. Like Rodney Dangerfield, the poor woman “can’t get no respect.” No matter how many times Schmidt publicly promises her that he’ll talk to Dan O’Connor and “the code enforcement people,” nothing seems to get done.

There never has been a 5-minute rule imposed by Schmidt whenever Pellicci, Wintermeier, Brennan, Konig, Morrow or other Schmidt fans wanted to talk on and on and on. So does this insufferable little twit expect us to believe his bullshit about a 5-minute rule? Give me a break.

On October 18, 2007 11:18 AM, KWilly said:

Just The Facts,

Can you at least agree that Mayor Schmidt does not want to kill anyone? He’s wrong on the steamrolling of such an important issue but that does not mean that he wants to intentionally kill people like Hitler. That is what i meant by the point.

Kevin W. Davis

On October 18, 2007 10:16 AM, red hill resident said:

It appears that many of the supporters (enablers?) of the Mayor’s plan for water additives are members of the same group that led the charge against Metro Enviro. A little ironic don’t you think? I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m more than a little fed up with this smug little group. Time to push back.

On October 18, 2007 9:19 AM, Just The Facts said:

While I think the comparison to Hitler is a bit extreme, quite frankly unlike what kwilly suggests, the Mayor’s actions could result in the deaths of Crotonites. Not to be alarmist, but I am not in favor of putting anything more unatural into my body then necesary. I certainly don’t want to find out in a few years that this additive causes cancer or other bad effects on me, or particularly my children.

Kwilly, you should realize that there are what are called “cancer clusters” as well as areas of other clusters that are hard to explain by mere statistical chance. The over prevalance of certain diseases, etc. in certain areas is certainly due to unatural environmental factors.

Personally, I don’t have brown water. If I did, I would buy bottled water or install a filter in my house. Seriously, this is so ridiculous that a whole town may suffer because of a few unfortunate residents who live on dead end streets.

Here is what I want to know. Who exactly voted for Mayor Schmidt? He overwhelmingly won the last election, but I want to know who exactly is supportive of the way he is governing this town? Also, does anyone know if the Mayor himself is one of the Crotonites who has a brown water issue?

On October 18, 2007 8:18 AM, KWilly said:

Anti-Nazi,

I find your comments to be incredibly objectionable. You are taking Ad hominem attacks to a new level. As much as i disagree with our mayor’s policies he DEFINITELY IS NOT NEAR AS BAD AS HITLER. Our mayor was democratically elected and he hasn’t killed anyone. The citizens who speak for 15 minutes when we have a 5 minute time limit who get interrupted are not getting their rights violated. Charlie Kane when he was getting interrupted by our mayor was not good but it was nowhere near the atrocities committed to Hitler.

The claim about being a carpetbagger is totally irrelevant. What does the fact that he didn’t grow up in Croton have to do with this? If our Mayor is a carpetbagger than the only one on the board who isn’t a carpetbagger is Charlie Kane. The fact is i lived in Croton all of my life (18 Years) and the mayor has lived in Croton longer than i have.

Kevin W. Davis

On October 18, 2007 7:45 AM, TeaDrinker said:

The performance of our do-nothing Mayor at recent meetings on questionable water additives has been scary. Somewhere along the line, the Mayor, a carpet-bagging masseur from Peekskill, has gotten the idea that during sessions labeled ”citizen participation,” he is supposed to play debate moderator. His job is merely to sit there, keep his mouth shut and listen to citizens’ comments, complaints, gripes, or whatever without trying to shut citizens up or to censor their remarks.

The history of the citizens’ campaign in the past against fluoridation of Croton’s water is definitely pertinent to the subject of other proposed additives. If you had lived in Croton then, Mr. Schmidt, you would have known this. So, shut your yap, Schmidtty boy, and listen for once. You might learn something. Last Monday night was the pits. They are right. You really are trying to play Hitler, aren’t you? Well, you are not going to get away with forcing this crap down our throats.

On October 17, 2007 1:43 PM, weewill said:

Where have all the naysayers gone? Where is the outcry of fury over the perceived dangers of living in the same community as MetroEnviro? The mere suspicion of contaminants in the air, particulates in potential runoff or exposure to lead or toxins in material that might pass through the site conjured up horror tales of death and destruction for Croton residents. With no substance and only suspicion, rumor and fabrication, these self-appointed protectors of health and safety declared war. Some would say it was a partisan and political manipulation for war with no basis in fact. Without a shred of evidence to support these bogus claims of health hazards, Mayor Schmidt and Trustees Konig and Brennan, fueled the fire and embroiled this village in an endless and undefined financial battle. There is still no end in sight. (Does it remind you of any thing similar happening in Washington, D.C.?)

To be sure Metro Enviro accumulated a poor record of administrative non-compliance – for exceeding waste limits, falsifying records, sneaking in bits and pieces of forbidden industrial and municipal waste, and failing to train personnel. But let’s be clear ….. none of these offenses threatened the health and safety of our community.

The addition of yet another chemical component to our drinking water is questionable. Worst case, it’s more threatening and dangerous to our health and safety than MetroEnviro ever was. Something is not making sense here.



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