A couple of red herrings

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

Nice, provocative lede to the “Can’t just blame it on the rain” story on Day One of The News Virginian’s Stormwater Strain series.

“Trash, cigarette butts, oil and antifreeze assault Waynesboro’s stormwater system,” writes the NV’s Jimmy LaRoue, making us think that these are the reasons why we have stormwater-runoff problems in Waynesboro.

Well …

And then we read on, and see that the concern noted has to do more with environmental impacts on the South River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Which has nothing to do with why water ends up in people’s yards and basements, for those keeping score at home.

Trash, uncollected leaves, sure, they can both have impacts, because larger objects can collect in the pipes and clog things up to a point where water in heavy-rain events has nowhere else to go but out into roadways and yards and homes. But as much as can be said to the issue of how much a refocused stormwater-system maintenance effort could have a positive impact on stormwater-related flooding issues, there’s more political red herring here than anything of substance.

The same can be said of the discussion toward the end of the “Can’t blame it on the rain” story in which LaRoue reports to us that Invista officials insist that their plant is not part of the problem, repeating an oft-cited line from Invista that I’ve asked a number of city officials about. And as I indicated personally in my endorsement interview with the NV editorial board back in April, the answer to my question to officials, including the mayor, the city manager and the public-works director, regarding what the city has been able to independently verify regarding that assertion, was uniform: We have not been able to verify that for ourselves.

LaRoue was there in the interview when I talked with the editorial board about that point, and I’d like to think that he would have picked up on the line of discussion and made some inquiries to that effect in his own reporting on the subject. I’m parsing words here, but one way to read his phrasing – emphasizing that “company officials said” and “company officials insisted” – would be to glean that he did pick up on the point that it’s Invista making these statements, and we have no other verification of what they’re saying other than what they’re saying.

Personally, if that is the case, I think LaRoue should stop dancing around the issue and just say it loud and clear.

Seriously, because it’s OK. I’ve been doing it for weeks, and nobody’s lopped my head off yet for doing it.

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