There was a time in our educational system when classical poetry was part of the curriculum, and every schoolchild knew by heart this stanza from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”—“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”

We talk a lot about the past as prologue and this stanza is very apt today when we consider the water crisis, particularly the ever-widening reports of water unfit to drink.

Eight years ago, though it seems like yesterday, Flint, Michigan was faced with the problem of water contaminated with lead and other toxins. Memories of that came back the other day via the situation in Jackson, Mississippi, and even closer to home with the alert that arsenic was found in the water of one of the NYCHA housing units.

While the conditions in Mississippi have improved with the news that the water pressure has increased, allowing residents to have water to shower and to flush their toilets, there are still some concerns about whether it’s drinkable.

A similar caveat pertains here in the city at the Jacob Riis Houses after testing showed no detection of arsenic; still residents are advised against using the available water supply until additional testing.

What’s happening here and in Mississippi are by no means anomalies; they are just symptomatic of an increasingly widespread infrastructure problem in terrible disrepair.

If something as critical and seemingly reliable as our drinking water is suddenly a danger to our health, what’s to be said of other features of our crumbling system?

Yes, Samuel, there is water, water everywhere and whether it’s in the flooding regions of the nation or undrinkable in other places, you were spot on back in your Rime at the end of the 18tth century.

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