Letter: Public services should not be for sale

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To the editor,

For many years, industrialists told us they would build their smoke stacks high. That way the pollution would dissipate in the air. The higher the smoke stacks, the less worry about air pollution. Thus began what seemed like a contest. Who could build the highest stack?

While the owners of these industries would make us believe in a magic act, physicists knew better. One of the basic principles of physics declares that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter may be spewed up but it also must come down. And come down it did.

The national Resources Defense Council studied air pollution. What it found wasn’t pretty. “From soot to toxic heavy metals, dirty coal and fossil fuel smoke stacks emit vast quantities of dangerous pollutants that are well known to cause disease and death. The total cost of these health impacts (especially respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema -LY) is more than $100 billion per year.”  Remember, this is after 40 years of the clean air act. And this does not even consider the big kahuna, climate change.

I raise this point for a specific, relevant reason. On Dec. 25, 2013, a pollution episode occurred along the Naugatuck River in Seymour. A burst sewage pipe dumped the untreated material into the river at a rate of 100-200 gallons per minute. Estimates are 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of raw sewage were released into the water.

Days later a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman stated that DEEP was satisfied with the actions of the private company that runs Seymour’s waste treatment plant. He followed this with, “The river’s fast flow would quickly dissipate the sewage.”

Sound familiar? We are supposed to believe that the toxins, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, not to mention the bacteria, viruses and other microbes, “dissipate.” That is they disappear. Another mythical magic act, this time promulgated by DEEP.

Of course this pollution was passed down the Naugatuck River to Ansonia, Derby and into the Housatonic River. From there, some of the untreated mess was deposited into Long Island Sound. I doubt that the statement by DEEP about the so-called dissipation of sewage will warm the hearts of fisher people and others fighting the pollution of Long Island Sound.

Was the spill due to the lack of maintenance? Data from the 1990s show that the number of workers in wastewater treatment in Seymour has gone down from 9-10 to 6 workers. Is that enough to do preventive maintenance on the many pipes and other structures involved?

Should those of us upriver in Naugatuck to be concerned? Yes. Veolia, the private company that runs Seymour’s wastewater treatment plant, also operates Naugatuck’s.

Compared to Seymour, we have a much bigger operation in Naugatuck as the town takes in sludge from other towns. We have 30 workers. The town inputs between 1 and 1.2 million tax dollars per year for the operation of the plant. How much profit is made and taken out of the town? No one seems to know. Are our pipes and equipment being properly maintained?

The present Administration in Naugatuck would extend privatization to visiting nurses (VNA), sanitation and family services. VNA patients, for example, are worried they would lose the close relationship that they have with their nurses and see their time allotment with them diminish.

For the most part, products are not involved here. Nor are they commodities for the market. These are people services. People walk, talk and have dreams.

Creative solutions are beginning to come forward from the grassroots. The VNA of Naugatuck is willing to also work outside of Naugatuck and bring those dollars back here. Let’s take over the operation of our own wastewater treatment plant. Those dollars, especially the fees collected from other towns for treating their sludge, can be used to finance the running of the plant. Tax dollars saved can then be used to help fund our public works e.g. sanitation, and also family services.

We need to send a message to our politicians that Naugatuck’s public services are not for sale.

Len Yannielli

Naugatuck

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