Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Infrastructure heroes

I used to run the regional water and sewer system for the Boston metropolitan area, and I found that the people on the front line who operate these systems are among the unsung heroes in our communities.  (In that regard they are similar to many of the front-line staff people in hospitals.)  Here's a wonderful story from the Washington Post about a group of folks at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission who, by dint of dedication, persistence, and hard work, helped avoid a difficult situation in their community.  The lede:

Brad Destelhorst stood in the dimly lit, musty vault — a small concrete room 20 feet underground near the Capital Beltway — and tried not to think about his soaked feet, or the muddy water he stood in, or the fact that more than 100,000 people in southern Prince George’s County needed him to fix the unfixable.

For almost 12 hours Tuesday, Destelhorst and fellow mechanics for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission chiseled years of thick rust off gears that corrosion had frozen in place and then fashioned new gears out of the gunked-up pieces of metal. 

Other crews had spent three days trying to fix the valve.... But with new parts for the 48-year-old valve unavailable, the other crews had said they found it impossible to repair. 

Destelhorst, an admittedly stubborn former auto mechanic from Crownsville, wouldn’t have it. He said Thursday that he was prepared to break every tool he had to get the gears turning and the valve closed.

“No one should have to go without water,” he said.

We often take underground infrastructure for granted. Let's not forget the need to maintain it properly or the dedicated folks who keep it operating.


Anonymous said...

To understand the importance of a good water sanitation program, I strongly encourage reading, "The Big Necessity." Sanitation workers truly are the unsung heroes in our modern world.

Paul Levy said...