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Over Easy: America’s D+ Infrastructure

A pothole in a cracked roadway, filled with rainwater.

American infrastructure is falling apart.

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a report card based on the A-F grading system, for America’s infrastructure. Infrastructure involves more than the 65,000 US bridges in need of repair, or the potholes that ate Indianapolis. America earned a D+ average across sixteen categories according to eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.

The Infrastructure report card is here. The grades:

Aviation D
Bridges C+
Dams D
Drinking Water D
Energy D+
Hazardous Waste D
Inland Waterways D-
Levees D-
Ports C
Public Parks and Recreation C-
Rail C+
Roads D
Schools D
Solid Waste B-
Transit D
Wastewater D

How are we doing today?

While America spends huge amounts of money on non-emergency or made up issues, like surveillance or hollowing out America or keeping alligators off the football field, the place is falling apart. The D+ average reflects a crisis in America’s infrastructure. But just when you think things cannot get any worse, they do. For example:

Schools received a D grade. One must get a shovel and dig to get this low, but yesterday the Washington Post reports Koch brothers help Kansas lawmakers strip teachers of tenure. Here’s what these egregious horrendous human beings did:

The Kansas legislature just passed legislation that strips teachers of tenure and the right to due process, a move pushed by conservative lawmakers who were forced by a state Supreme Court ruling to provide more funding to poor school districts and wanted to get something out of the deal. After stripping teachers of their tenure, legislators had a brief discussion about jewelry.

So, after screwing teachers and school children, who have no money and no political clout, the discussion that the taxpayers were funding progressed to more important things like personal jewelry. Brought to you by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, that gets an F. Since there is no longer tenure, I can not imagine that a teacher could lose much by explaining how a bill becomes law, and also explaining why 40 children are sharing one schoolbook, and who proposed the bill.

Every two minutes in America, a water pipe breaks. If you own the home on top of the broken pipe, you must pay for the repair, even if the pipes were installed decades before your arrival. Seven trillion gallons of treated drinking water are lost yearly in the US, due to leaking pipes, and leaking pipes can lead to mold and other serious property damage. The customer pays for the chemicals to treat the water, as well as the pumps, pipes and electricity to run the pumps, but there is no note on the water bill that says you are paying for lost water due to failing infrastructure.

Energy’s D+ is notable because my husband and I are one of many residents in an area spanning several states, with a power bill horror story. At first I thought our power bill, which was suddenly higher than God, was a mistake, but then we began asking others, and in many cases the electric bill matches the rent, or exceeds it. While some companies claim “polar vortex,” we believe the residential customer is absorbing the cost of aging structure in the electricity grid.

Bridges earned a C+, with one in nine reported as structurally deficient, carrying more than two hundred million travelers each day. A United States Structurally Deficient Bridges on the National Highway Systems map from the Department of Transportation is here, and things are not looking up. According to an audit released Tuesday in Louisiana, the transportation department couldn’t exactly prove it had inspected 16 percent of the bridges in the state, and several hundred others were late in inspection or deficient in other ways. The pdf audit is here.

Hazardous waste received a D grade. Last week, Mercury News reported that home improvement giant Lowe’s was ordered to pay 18 million in fines for illegal hazardous waste disposal:

OAKLAND — Home improvement giant Lowe’s has been ordered to pay $18 million for illegally disposing hazardous waste, including pesticides, batteries, fluorescent bulbs and other toxic materials, following a civil enforcement action filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court.

Amazing that it’s just Lowe’s. There is an old saying among dumpster divers: “You would not believe what people throw away.” That includes businesses, utilities, and if you are a history buff, there’s Drum Mountain , or even things like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

In news from Hanford, Donna Busche, a safety whistleblower who was fired from Hanford in February, had warned of dangers involving, among other things, vapors that sickened 24 workers in March. Hanford is home to 56 million gallons of the most toxic waste in the US in 177 underground storage tanks, and is known for plutonium production for the WWII ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb in B-Reactor. Last week, the Atomic Heritage Foundation launched a virtual tour of B-Reactor, called Ranger in Your Pocket.

What are your thoughts on the infrastructure report card? Choose one of the sixteen subjects and rant and rave accordingly. There is little way to go but up, but are things improving, or is America’s infrastructure summed in the movie line,

Dean Vernon Wormer: Mr. Blu…Mr. Blutarsky… zero… point… zero.

On a lighter note, the Decorah Eagles have three beautiful chicks. The Live Cam is here.

Photo by Joshua Davis released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

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