Suits Smashing Pipes
Privatization, suspension of democracy and the destruction of infrastructures
February 8, 2016
This weekend, I was included in a social media discussion that questioned the cost of fixing the pipes in Flint and why they couldn’t just switch back to Detroit water immediately. This post was written in response and reflects some of the information shared in the subsequent discussion. As I stated in my response, there are many who are working more closely on this than I and I’m hoping that they will correct me if I’m sharing misinformation.
My understanding is that when Snyder switched Flint to the more corrosive Flint River they did not treat the water with anti-corrosive chemicals that apparently coat the pipes and prevent leaching of materials (lead) into the water.
So, yes, they can just switch to Detroit again, and they actually have, but now the pipes are damaged due to the untreated water and the infrastructure, unless PVC (plastic), needs to be replaced to every tap on the system.
Note: just like our nations electrical grid is in dire need of update, our water infrastructures across the country are dangerously near failing. Flint’s tragedy is starting to bring more and more cities into the light. Flint is just the tip of the iceberg.
As water systems are privatized, the corporations that run them are engaging in tactics to damage the infrastructure and then shift the cost to the city and state, ie public funds toward the repair of a now private system. (a current trend, see: Hockey Arena, M-1 rail, etc).
So, for Flint, the thing to watch is where the ownership of the water system lands. Who ever owns it is going to eventually have a fancy new water system all paid for by a man-made emergency and the poisoning of residents.
Here in Detroit with massive inhumane water shut-offs and foreclosures, the funding strategy has been to damage the pipes going from the main to the house. In my personal experience, damaging the pipes at the shut-off box, when turning on/off service to the house. In order to get our ‘auction’ house back ON the water system we had to pay $1K in permits and pay a contactor $3.5K to tear up our street to put in new pipes from the main to the house.
Basically, after a water shut off or a foreclosure, In order for anyone to live in the house again they have to replace the pipes, shut-off box, from the house to the main and eat the cost themselves. Of course, the Detroit system is now run by a quasi-public/private authority, the Great Lakes Water Authority.
In the case of water-shut offs on low/no income residents, in addition to encouraging them to move out and subjecting them to health/social trauma, they are shifting the cost of infrastructure repair to the next owner once it is flipped. It’s pretty brilliant from an evil nerd perspective, maximize attrition and profits. Emergency management has proved its efficiency in atrocity and austerity.
Sadly, I’m beginning to see this and similar efforts as ‘textbook’ Disaster Capitalism strategy. In Detroit, the man-made crisis was a engineered financial emergency that was used to justify the suspension of democracy called ’emergency management’. The suspension of democracy, and from a racial lens, displacement of the black power structure in our municipal governance, brought on the bankruptcy. The bankruptcy facilitated the redistribution of funds and resources from public to private en mass.