Our view: State park system a real diamond

Diamonds galore to our great state parks system and the free heat relief afforded by swimming opportunities in places such as Frances Slocum, Ricketts Glen and Hickory Run state parks. Yes, the heat was exceptional this past week, bringing related risks if venturing outdoors even for a dip, but common sense precautions (sun screen, hydration, insulated cooling chests filled with ice and cold drinks) allowed plenty of people to take advantage of the great outdoor swimming options. We are blessed with many terrific places to take a dip and enjoy fresh air, and the heat wave showed the value of preserving the state park system.

Coal to the forces and circumstances — political, economic and social — that have led to a dangerous decline in state oversight of our drinking water systems. As detailed in a series from PennLive dubbed “Tapped Out,” the Keystone State has put many at risk of health problems by reducing spending on the Department of Environmental Protection, badly shortchanging the need for qualified inspectors and enforcement. One story focused on the Stockton section of Hazle Township, where an old, coal-company built open pond water system was contaminated by heavy metals, dead carcasses and microscopic baddies. Regular inspection of drinking water supplies is fundamental because, as one inspector glibly but accurately put it “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Lack of testing before ingesting invites the unknown into your body. What we do know is this: Saving money by skimping on water supply quality control is a disaster waiting to happen (see Flint, Mich.). Bluntly: Without clean water, we die.

Diamonds to Hanover Township’s Christian Choman, for — as reported in Wednesday’s July 4 edition — giving grimy gravestones of valorous veterans a professional cleaning free of charge. Choman said he does the work when he spots a monument to a former military person while conducting his pressure-washing business. It is a great example of citizenship and appreciation for those who helped preserve our country. “We are able to do this because of them,” Choman said of the veterans memorialized by the stones he cleans. “It’s the least we can do.”

Coal to derelict property owners who help create problems with vacant or neglected properties, as well as landlords who ignore illegal activities in their rentals. Wilkes-Barre city officials rightly got an earful about such issues on Maffett Street, but it is a problem that occurs in many parts of many Luzerne County municipalities. In cities and boroughs rife with excess housing stock thanks to population decline, this a tough nut to crack, and property owner rights can’t be ignored. These factors combine to hamstring efforts by police and municipal officials, but their persistence is pivotal. Of course, the real solution rests with property owners living up to responsibilities. If you want the profit, pay the price.