by Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall St On Parade:
As thousands of residents of North and South Carolina remain in shelters in the aftermath of catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Florence, zoning and planning boards across America are signing off on the plans of developers to build new communities in areas with inadequate water drainage and runoff facilities. At the same time, large expanses of lush native vegetation with the ability to absorb heavy rains are being replaced with concrete sidewalks and driveways, exacerbating the flooding problem. Government safeguards against over-development are being rolled back or simply ignored in towns and cities across the country by officials too cozy with moneyed developers who finance the government officials’ political campaigns.
Last Thursday, 8600 customers of Columbia Gas in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts were ordered from their homes as more than 60 area homes erupted in flames and at least three exploded as a result of what authorities presently believe was over-pressurization of a gas line. Columbia Gas had acknowledged in a video announcing its modernization plans for the towns that the gas pipes in the area were heavily corroded. One death occurred and at least 25 people were injured. The Federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is on the scene conducting an investigation. As we reported Friday, Columbia Gas has a prior history of devastating incidents and running afoul of the National Transportation Safety Board. Over the past decade, the parent of Columbia Gas, NiSource Inc., has spent more than $6 million lobbying in Washington, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Then there is the situation in the northeastern part of the State of Connecticut. Hundreds of homeowners who bought homes built between 1983 and 2010 have reported that their concrete basements are collapsing. Officials have determined that the concrete contained too much of the mineral pyrrhotite. Insurance companies are refusing to cover the claims, leaving homeowners with over $200,000 in repair costs to jack up the house and replace the basement or accept that their home is dangerous, worthless and unsaleable. (Read the official investigative reports from the State of Connecticut here.) NBC News reported in October of last year that “State officials estimate up to 30,000 homeowners are affected by the problem.” What has been determined is that regulations governing quarries and concrete manufacturers were inadequate to detect the problem before the basements were constructed.
On August 20 of this year, Judge David Goggins ordered Michigan’s State Director of Health and Human Services Department, Nick Lyon, to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of two men who died from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint, Michigan area. Lyon is accused of keeping the public in the dark about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease which resulted in at least 90 cases and 12 deaths. The Legioinnaires’ problem is part of a larger investigation into how Flint’s water system became poisoned with lead when the city switched to using Flint River water. But the lead problem isn’t isolated to Flint. At the end of August, officials found elevated lead and copper levels in 34 Detroit schools and shut down drinking water at all 106 school buildings until full testing has been completed. Bottled water is being provided until a long range solution is approved.
On Friday, the Detroit Free Press reported the following lead problems at schools in other states:
“In Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, the nation’s 14th largest school district is replacing hundreds of fixtures after testing earlier this year found elevated levels of lead.
“When classes began in late August for Portland Public Schools, it marked the first time in two years that students in most schools were able to safely drink from water fountains. In May 2016, 99 percent of the schools in the district were found to have at least one cold water fixture with elevated levels of lead.
“In New York City schools, high lead levels continue to be a problem, as well as in communities such as Hillsborough County in Florida.
“In Indiana, where 915 schools were recently tested as part of a voluntary, statewide lead sampling program, 61 percent were found to have elevated levels of lead.”