Monday, February 04, 2008

Why Should I Pay to Clean Up the Mess in Long Island Sound that Mamaroneck and New Rochellle and Rye and Larchmont Helped Create?

These editorial writers agree with me -- if the cost of upgrading Westchester's four Long Island Sound sewage treatment plants is too high for the residents of those four sewer districts to bear, let's consider spreading the cost over the whole county.

But for the sake of discussion, let's look at it another way.

If you live in Mamaroneck, Rye, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Larchmont, Pelham Manor, Harrison, or part of Scarsdale and White Plains, it's your sewage -- not mine -- that's contributing to the pollution problem. Your sewage is helping create the dead zone in the part of the Sound near you. Mine is going into a septic system that I had a couple of thousand dollars to replace when I moved into my house eight years ago.

For decades you have been dumping your sewage into the Sound but not paying the true cost; instead, you've been transfering the cost to the Long Island Sound ecosystem. The Sound has subsidized your economc well being by serving as a place where you could dump your sewage without paying the true cost. And now you want to ask me to pay to help clean up your mess.

I might agree to do so -- in fact, I'm inclined to agree to do so (although I can't speak for my neighbors elsewhere in Pound Ridge, or in Bedford, where they have their own sewage problems, or Yorktown, where they're paying to upgrade a sewage plant that empties into New York City's drinking water, or elsewhere in northern or western Westchester. But I tend to think saving Long Island Sound is worthwhile.

But how is it as much my problem as it is yours? Explain to me why I should pay to solve the problem you helped create?

If you've read my book or heard me talk, you might remember this quote, which Al Appleton said at a meeting to discuss the Sound cleanup, in 1990 in Rye:

"Pollution is free garbade disposal. It's using a public resource to subsidize a private activity. All we're really asking private activities to do is pay the true cost of doing business. We who are the public no longer want to use Long Island Sound to subsidize certain kinds of economic activities."

10:30 a.m.: I should add that this is a bit of a straw-man argument: the county government isn't formally proposing to spread the cost out (they want to get out of having to pay it); the only people proposing to share the costs are the editorial writers and me, and it's a question as to which of us has the least influence on public policy.



Blogger Sam said...

Tom you bring an interesting meaning to the term "pay as you 'go.'"

8:10 PM  

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