Our View: Raw sewage needed action years ago

December 28, 2006 12:00 am

No one should be upset that raw sewage flowed onto Crescent City streets and into businesses Tuesday. We ought to be hopping mad, though, that past leaders failed us by not acting sooner to remedy the problem.

After all, overflowing sewage has been a problem for years. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it shut down a couple of businesses on M Street and left a stinking pool in the parking lot near the Rural Human Services building.

The good news is that the matter should be resolved when the wastewater treatment plant finally is upgraded, though that's still three years away. Currently the plant can't handle heavy rainfall, causing the water – some of it human sewage – to back up. Manhole covers and business drains at the city's lowest elevations soon take the brunt. The plant improvements, however, will increase the city's capacity to handle even Christmas Day's record rains.

So the problem is being fixed. But why wasn't the matter addressed years ago, before it had a chance to become a problem?

Did no one during the 1990s think the day would soon come when the city had enough homes and businesses that the water system would become overburdened? Raw sewage has backed up during heavy rains three of the past four years, usually at year's end.

Did no one during the 1990s think Crescent City ever would receive heavy rains? The Pacific Ocean's temperature has been rising for the past 15 years, and warmer water means more rain for our county. In any case, the roughly 60 inches of rain we annually receive is just an average, so some years we're bound to receive far more precipitation.

Did no one think during the 1990s think that raw sewage backing up would be a detriment to public health and attracting businesses? The city does have a compensation program to pay shopkeeps for damage and loss income, but that hardly covers the cost of loss tax revenue and jobs when a businessperson decides to stay away from Crescent City to avoid the problem.

We hate to sound flip, but the lack of planning in years past stinks. There is a lesson, however, that we hope current leaders learn from it: Be forward thinking and proactive today to avoid messes tomorrow.