While Iraq struggles to provide drinking water to its citizens, it turns out we?re having the same problems right here in the U.S., due to aging pipes and outdated treatment plants. Many water treatment plants use century-old technology that can’t clean up modern contaminants. Water pipes are old too, and in some cities they date back 100 years.

Chicago’s water has an “excellent” rating, and Denver. New Orleans, Manchester, NH, Baltimore and Detroit are rated good. Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Newark, NJ, San Diego, Seattle and Washington are rated fair. No city fails to provide drinkable water, but five are rated “poor”: Albuquerque, N.M., Boston, Fresno, CA, Phoenix and San Francisco.

Fresno has too many nitrates in the water, while Washington violates the national standards for trihalomethanes, which are a byproduct of chlorination and may increase the risk of cancer. “People would be surprised to know that their water contains cancer-causing chemicals, toxic chemicals like lead, that it often contains the remnants of pollutants like sewage that slip through some of the treatment plants,” says Erik Olson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In the June 9 issue of “The New Yorker,” Hendrik Hertzberg, in “Building Nations,” talks about how the infrastructure of Iraq is still a mess?no water, electricity or phones for many, not enough food distribution or hospital supplies, inadequate sewage treatment, and fear of crime. He compares this to the state of public services here at home and says, “[Due to tax cuts], states are canceling school construction?health benefits are being slashed?and in many states, even cops are getting laid off.”

Hertzberg says, “It’s tempting to suggest that the Bush Administration is failing to provide Iraq with functioning, efficient, reliable public services because it doesn’t believe in functioning, efficient, reliable public services?doesn’t believe that they should exist, and doesn’t really believe that they can exist.” He says the current White House “believe(s) in free markets, individual initiative, and private schools and private charity as substitutes for public provision?They do not, at bottom, believe that society, through the mechanisms of democratic government, has a moral obligation to provide care for the sick, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and education for all?”

It makes you wonder who’s really running things.

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