Anxious about the possibility of a Fukushima-style nuclear calamity in the event of another earthquake here on the East Coast? You should be! But save some shelf space in your cabinet of concerns for our deteriorating dams:
In 2009 the American Society of Civil Engineers released a survey of the state of infrastructure in the U.S. The group found that dams are, on average, in terrible disrepair. Of the more than 85,000 dams, more than 4,000 are unsafe or deficient, and nearly 1,800 of those are located where a breach would cause severe damage to life or property. With so many dams, it is hard to know where the gravest danger lies. The average budget for dam inspectors is distressingly low. For instance, Texas employs just seven inspectors to keep an eye on 7,400 dams, and in many states inspectors lack the authority to inspect private dams, including those built to hold back the chemical by-products of mining operations. A report by Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute estimates that dams are the most potentially hazardous source of energy. A catastrophe at an average dam has the potential to kill 11,000 people. The second-most-hazardous energy source? Nuclear.
Uh oh. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s way past time for desperate measures to resolve this issue. Only collective action can ensure that we properly address this critical problem. I propose that we all put our fingers in our ears, shut our eyes and repeat, “Nothing’s gonna happen, it’ll be fine” over and over. I mean, it’s kept us safe so far, right?