Pa. has failed to guarantee clean water; here’s how to fix it

The maximum time you can survive without water, which makes up 60 percent of your body, is a week.
But as PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey details in a harrowing but utterly necessary report, years of budget cuts have depleted the ranks of water inspectors at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, putting your safety, and that of your family, at risk.
The numbers are shocking: Between 2008 and 2012, state funding for the DEP was nearly halved, dropping from $229 million to $125 million.
During that drop, the DEP lost 750 inspectors, who are carrying an average inspection workload of 149 water systems each.
The same budget cuts that hit the inspection side also impacted enforcement.
In fiscal year 2017, state inspectors visited about 19 percent of the state’s water systems, well below the national average of 37 percent, McKelvey wrote.
Tom Wolf signed into law last week includes a $5.6 million funding increase for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Those trainee hires, who would replace the aging, veteran inspectors who are moving toward retirement age, would eventually bring the DEP down to a more manageable workload of 100 to 125 water systems for each inspector.
At an average cost of $40,000 per inspector, lawmakers would need cough up an extra $3.4 million a year.
It’s time for Harrisburg to live up to that trust.

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