Posted by Deirdre Oakley, DEKALB COUNTY, GA – I had just returned home from the gym to the news that we had no water. My first panicked thought was, “oh no, did I forget to pay the water bill!?” It turned out that it was a sewage pipe problem and a team of county workers were already out there trying to fix it. But my “phee-ew” moment never emerged. Why? Well, first, they’ve been out there now for over for five hours working hard to fix this problem. But more importantly, the workers cannot solve the bigger issue of our decaying urban water systems because it’s not theirs to solve. As a recent Washington Post article stated: “…just like roads and bridges, the vast majority of the country’s water systems are in urgent need of repair and replacement.
So what happens to individual properties and neighborhoods when aging water systems go down? Yards get dug up until the problem is found. In this case it was at least two front yards. Those yards are never put back together the way they were because there simply isn’t the county funding to do so. Dekalb's Watershed has no budget for maintenance beyond these types of emergency fixes. This means that as the entire system decays further, crews are dispatched to address the emerging problems that are the result of an aging infrastructure. The workers do their best, but the system as a whole needs to be fixed. I highly doubt the workers get paid well either – even with overtime.
Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.