Why do we trust the local government?

As we just celebrated the Fourth of July and the big group hug that all Americans take, we have an opportunity to ask why Americans trust the government?  Some might argue that we do not trust the government that much.  If we are talking about the Federal government, the case is true. Gallop polls  show that from the early 1970’s to 2016 the trust Americans had in the federal government went down from 70% to 44%.  We dropped below the 50% trust point in 2006.  That is quite a drop in those decades.  Interesting to note is the fact that faith in the media has dropped even worst during this timeframe from 68% to 32%.  Surprisingly, American’s trust is local government went up from 63% to 71% in this same period.  How do we account for this?

Just this past week I received my quarterly water bill from the Fairfax Water, which is the non-profit public utility that supplies water to northern Virginia and over two million people.  With the bill was their summer newsletter, “Straight from the tap.” Right away the newsletter evoke “straight talk”, which is a virtue most Americans find appealing.  In the newsletter there is a warning about scammers targeting customer.  Clearly, Fairfax Water looks out for their customers.  There are announcements of the major water projects under way.  Clearly, Fairfax water is investing in the community infrastructure.  There is a Kid’s coloring contest with back to school prizes.  Clearly Fairfax water cares about the kids.  There is a advertisement to go paperless for our bill and water saving tips.  Clearly, Fairfax Water is looking out for the environment.   Looking at this newsletter, why wouldn’t I trust the local government?  The newsletter suggests that they really care.

BUT, there is a notice of the release of the annual water quality report.  It’s the report that federal law says they have to create, but they are not sending copies and Fairfax Water has not burdened any of the customers with a summary of the finding.  If you want to know the results you must actively seek a copy via mail or find it on the web.  Seek the report I did and the URL can be found at the bottom of this post.  The good news is that our water quality is excellent according to the general manager and his dedicated team of scientists, operators, engineers, and field technicians.  To their credit, lead in water is specifically addressed on three of the 28 pages.  The good news is that the Fairfax Water system contains no lead pipes and is below the Lead and Copper pipe trigger of 15 ppb.  The bad news (if you continue reading the small print on the slide) is that your house may have a lead connector pipe.  Concerned water users should flush pipes for 30 seconds and consider using filters.  Everything sounds like it is under control.

The people of Washington, D.C. and Flint, Michigan trusted that the government was doing the right thing and protecting them.  In Flint, it was reported that many residents kept using the water even as they experienced problem of taste, smell and skin reaction.  But, the authorities said the water was OK.  The mayor drank a glass of the water on TV.  Why would the government lie about the water?  Looking at the Fairfax Water newsletter, the normal populous must have an impression of an organization of experts dedicated to safe water.  Even if the water quality report is hard to understand, why would we not trust them?

There is a warning about drinking from water hoses.  The plastic in hoses are not food grade, but there is nothing about lead pipes in the newsletter, only on the report.  How about a summary of the water quality in the newsletter, say maybe on page 1?  Would I ever know that as a homeowner I am responsible for the lead connector pipe to my house looking at this newsletter or the more detailed report?  I think not.  Trust means the hard stuff like lead, not just the easy stuff like water conservation and drinking from garden hoses.  With this newsletter I trust, with the example of Flint, I doubt all.






Fairfax Water Straight from the Tap Summer 2017

One Reply to “Why do we trust the local government?”

  1. This is a very important and insightful analysis. Add to all of what you say that the LCR is a “shared responsibility” regulation, which renders consumers partly responsible for protecting themselves from lead in water and requires these reports as vehicles for public education. I encourage you to consider deepening and polishing this piece, and publishing it or disseminating it through social media. On a different note, I wonder how Fairfax knows it contains no lead pipes. I imagine they have some sort of evidence, I just wonder what it is. Also, do they show a picture/graphic of a lead connector? Or do they offer a detailed description of what this is?

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