Op/Ed: 2017’s most important story will happen again

While 2017 brought more than its share of big news stories, one stands head and shoulders above the crowd.

In late October, Farmington Hills residents in a wide swath of neighborhoods north of I-696 didn’t have safe drinking water – some, for more than a week.

The crisis started with a broken, 48-inch water main that tied up rush hour traffic on October 23. The transmission line served a large portion of western Oakland County, so the more time passed, the worse the news.

By the following day, Farmington Public Schools had canceled classes and activities at Forest Elementary School, Kenbrook Elementary School, Farmington STEAM Academy, Wood Creek Elementary School, Warner Middle School, Harrison High School and North Farmington High School. The Farmington Community Library Main Library closed for a day.

Dozens of businesses – restaurants in particular – closed their doors. Clinics turned away patients, hospitals canceled elective surgeries and re-routed ambulances. The boil water advisory affected more than 300,000 residents. And in the beginning, 51,000 had no water at all.

It’s possible that a power surge cracked the 47-year-old line, but keep in mind that homes and roads and businesses sit on much older infrastructure. After the October break, detroitjournalism.org reported this:

A task force appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year concluded that Michigan water systems need $60 billion in upgrades.

I count the Farmington Hills water break as the year’s most important story because it should serve as a wake-up call, a reminder that everyone should keep a supply of bottled water on hand and know what to do in case of a water emergency.

Don’t think for a moment that what happened in October of 2017 can’t happen again. Chances are, it will.

– Joni Hubred