News Clips— Water worries

CAN WE TRUST the purity of our drinking water? Concern over the safety of Washington's drinking water has taken on a new urgency since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Just last week, Gov. Gary Locke proposed raising the penalties for anyone convicted of tampering with the public water supply. And earlier this month, the Seattle City Council again demanded the city's open water reservoirs be covered.

As part of Locke's package of proposed anti-terrorism legislation, the governor would increase to a Class A felony the crimes of introducing a contaminant into a public water system and interfering with the operation of a public water system with the intention of causing harm to the system or people. The state Legislature will consider the change in its upcoming session, which starts in January.

Meanwhile, back on Nov. 13, the City Council unanimously resolved to cover Seattle's nine open water reservoirs by 2005. The City Council's water czar, Margaret Pageler, is tired of waiting. "We do have a long-term plan to cover those reservoirs, but that program has slipped and slipped and slipped because every year there are other programs that replace it." According to Seattle Public Utilities [SPU], a soft cover is already being installed on the Bitter Lake Reservoir and a hard cover is being designed for Capitol Hill's Lincoln Reservoir. The hard covers are more expensive but allow a soccer field or basketball court to be built on top of the reservoirs. Covering all nine city reservoirs will cost between $80 million and $85 million.

How will we pay for it? Pageler acknowledges that it won't be easy during this recession. But she argues, "Our primary obligation is the health and safety of our water supply."

Expect to see increases in your water bill to cover the costs. The council has directed SPU to put together a funding plan that will outline rate increases for Seattleites and wholesale purchasers of our water—mostly suburban cities.

The bottom line for Pageler: "Let's just get it done."

Chauna Chambliss

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