In Smithfield, councilmen don’t mind that 38 percent of the town’s yearly sewage-treatment bill is unnecessary – harmless rainwater that seeps into cracked sewer lines. The thinking of town leaders is this: If Smithfield is charging its customers enough to cover the cost of treating that rainwater, then why raise the money needed to repair the cracks?
When I first read this, the logic escaped me. It was akin to saying if I can afford to empty the buckets collecting the rainwater pouring through my leaky roof, then I don’t need to pay to fix it.
The leaky-roof analogy is an apt one, said Steve Biggs, the town manager in Clayton. In short, he said, if the cost of fixing cracked sewer lines is substantially more than the cost of treating rainwater, then keep treating the rainwater.
In an email, Mr. Biggs wrote: “I think you look at the (return on investment) of how long will it take to recover the maintenance and repair cost through savings in what (you) are paying for treatment. Five years to the breakeven point is usually considered a good ROI. Ten begins to push the limit or maybe even already exceed the limit. Beyond 10 is probably a bad decision financially.”
I see his point, and my suspicion is that in Smithfield, the return on investment would easily exceed five years and perhaps even 10. A system so porous could not be that cheap to fix.
Still, I think the town council was too quick to dismiss the problem of infiltration. At the very least, it should ask the water and sewer department, with a little help if needed, to calculate the return on investment. According to Mr. Biggs, it’s not that hard. “Engineers can usually do a very good job of calculating how much water is entering the system at a given point,” he wrote in the email. “If you fix the (infiltration), then you know how much water you prevented from entering the system. Calculate the savings in treatment cost for that volume of water over the time it takes to break even.”
On a rainy day in Clayton, Mr. Biggs says, infiltration in the sewer-collection system can reach 40 to 45 percent of total flow. Even on a dry day, he added, it’s likely 10 percent. That’s one reason Clayton is smoke testing its sewer lines in search of leaks.
Smithfield should do likewise. Otherwise, the town will keep throwing money down the drain.
Baseball needs full disclosure
The question was whether anyone needed to know what Ryan Braun did to merit a season-ending suspension from baseball.
Kurt Schilling, the former Red Sox pitcher, said no. The fact that Braun readily accepted a suspension was a de facto admission that he violated baseball’s drug policy, Schilling said. The actual violation mattered little.
Barry Larkin, the former Reds shortstop, said yes. As one of the game’s great players, Braun, a former MVP, needs to answer in detail about his transgression, Larkin said.
I find myself in Larkin’s camp. One reason, frankly, is prurient interest. A naturally curious person, I always want to know the details, especially the salacious ones. When a college basketball team suspends a player for a violation of team rules, I always want to know which rule.
But it’s more than prurient interest. I want to know which team rule that basketball player violated because I want to know whether the punishment fits the crime. Which is to say that a one-game suspension for missing a team meeting seems about right; a one-game suspension for sucker punching a teammate in practice seems too light.
Assuming the Milwaukee Brewers don’t make the playoffs, Braun will miss 65 games, which is roughly the penalty for a first-time violation of baseball’s drug policy. But no one believes this is Braun’s first offense. In 2012, he avoided a 50-game suspension on a technicality; he also vehemently denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs. A year later, Braun says, “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
Braun and 20 other Major League players have been linked to the now-closed Biogenesis clinic, which was accused of selling performing-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. If true, Braun was part of a systematic cheating of baseball’s drug policy.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Braun under his “just cause” powers, meaning the suspension could have been as long or as short as the commissioner wanted.
If Braun has indeed been a chronic cheater, 65 games seems a light sentence. And that’s why I want to know exactly what sin he committed and how often.