Infrastructure: It's not glamorous, but it's necessary

Considering that the region is bordering on drought conditions, there has been quite a bit of water running through the streets of Philadelphia lately.

That's because in recent weeks a number of water mains have failed and spewed their contents onto the highways.

The time, effort and money that goes into their repair provide the best reasons in the world for municipalities to keep up with the maintenance of their infrastructures.

There's an old proverb that goes, 'A stitch in time saves nine.' Presumably it was referring to socks or T-shirts. But the same principle applies to larger, sturdier and heavier materials.

With that in mind, we were happy to hear that West Grove applied for and received a grant to replace the water mains on Jackson Street.

As small a town as West Grove is, its governing body appears wise enough to tend to the small and mundane tasks that keep local business moving along.

When budgets and municipal planning are on the plates of councils and township supervisors, it may be tempting to cut costs when it comes to pipes and wires that are out of sight and seem to be working O.K. at the time.

It's not a good idea, for the following reasons.

First and foremost is that many of the water and sewer pipes in southern Chester County go back almost 100 years.

West Grove Borough Manager Sharon Nesbitt said way back then the pipes were made out of cement. It's hard to imagine what they must look like now, but it's a good bet that after a century of service they are vulnerable to the pressures and shocks that have assaulted them through the years.

In all probability, those rupturing (and almost exploding pipes) in Philadelphia were past their lifetime expectation.

The second reason is that older pipes leak. In the long run, the cost of the water will go up because a percentage of it has found its way into the ground on its way to the residents.

The cost of repair versus the cost of prevention is also something to consider. Not only is it expensive to repair the streets that have been assaulted by the flood, but there is also the price of reimbursing people whose cellars and the good within have been ruined.

Finally, there is the human satisfaction on the part of people whose showers run strong and whose toilets empty efficiently. The longer municipalities delay infrastructure maintenance, the greater the chance of difficulties in the delivery of the water.

We sympathize with the difficult tasks elected officials have when it comes to weighing income against expenses. We also realize that local officials who want to get re-elected increase their chances by keeping taxes down.

Having well-running sewer plants and water delivery systems is not something that is going to get kudos in a magazine survey about the quality of life in a town. It's something people take for granted.

But let the pipes burst or the sewer overflow, and no one wants to live there, patronize the stores or eat at the restaurants.

We reiterate our congratulations to West Grove for keeping up with what's vital and unseen underground.

Additionally, we applaud any and all municipalities who follow that same route.

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