Blame for Flint is everywhere but not in one very obvious place

Former senator calls Flint water crisis ‘monstrous dereliction of duty’

Did you think the story of MDEQ malfeasance could not get worse? Wrong again. MDEQ’s negligence quite possibly killed a few of the very people they were paid to protect

PR expert: “No turning point in sight” in Gov. Snyder’s handling of Flint water crisis

What did Snyder know and when did he know it?

Those are only a few of the seemingly endless articles concerning the Flint water crisis. They all tend to assign the blame on the Governor, the emergency managers, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the EPA. I wonder why one other player, the elephant in the room, doesn’t seem to receive their share of the blame?

I’m talking about the city of Flint. After all, it was their half-century of financial mismanagement that led to the reason the emergency managers were brought in. Agree or disagree that the em’s were an appropriate response, Flint can’t blame any of the other players for the position they got themselves into.

And this fact seems to be overlooked by everyone. Yes, it was the DEQ that failed to enforce the Lead and Copper Rule correctly allowing the city to delay implementing a corrosion control program. However, nothing was standing in the way of the city still doing the right thing. It is in fact the utility, the city of Flint in this case, that has the responsibility to formulate a corrosion control program. Then that program is submitted to the DEQ for final approval. They may consult with the DEQ during the process, which Flint did, or simply go on their own and seek DEQ approval.

Unfortunately, the city went with the minimalist approach and sought to do the least amount possible as required by law. They could very well have submitted an optimal corrosion control program to the DEQ regardless of what the minimum threshold was. It’s the same sort of logic that the deeply flawed Lead and Copper Rule allows. The allowable limit for lead is 15 parts per billion and that is what encourages utilities to bend the rules (or sometimes outright commit fraud) in an attempt to stay just under it so they don’t have to go public and take action. They could take it upon themselves to reduce it to zero but the law doesn’t require it.

Flint may not have had the authority to make final decisions, however they could have introduced the right ones. They also shoulder the blame for electing to switch their primary coagulant to ferric chloride, which caused to corrosion problems, and not fuly vet its effects in real world conditions using river water as a source. This could have been done well ahead of time utilizing standard industry practices of bench testing, pipe loops, jar tests, etc. There is no reason other than negligence to not complete sampling under the distribution system conditions they knew they would face. Flint also benefited from the fact that they operated the plant approx. 20 days each year using river water as a source while in a backup capacity to Detroit water. A perfect opportunity to assess what effect no corrosion control would have upon the lead service lines. Some simple valving could have targeted a specific test area to use treated river water in place of Detroit water and measure its effects.

The left will have none of it. They see blood in the water and want to seize upon the opportunity to take back some turf from the republicans. They also don’t want the finger of blame pointed toward any bureaucracy as that doesn’t fit the agenda of expanding it. The window of opportunity is short. Once the lead levels decline to below the action level, the ability to have federal taxpayers pay for Flint’s infrastructure replacement withers. At that point they become just another city with old pipes. Despite the inept DEQ, the flawed EPA, and even a compromised Governor with a different partisan agenda if you want to go there, Flint had the power to do this the right way and failed. It’s time they look in the blame game mirror.



What isn’t being talked about in the Flint water crisis

The Flint water crisis marches on with the list of investigations growing and growing. The FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, EPA’s Office of Inspector General, EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Michigan Attorney General, and a state of Michigan Governor appointed task force are all conducting official investigations. Not to mention a handful of environmental and government transparency activists. An ever increasing number of lawsuits have been filed, some class action, some targeted at government officials. Famed Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger has joined the fray by filing a $100 million dollar suit against the state and McLaren Hospital alleging they were aware of the tainted water from which a high percentage of those contacting Legionnaires’ Disease were patients. The only certainty is that we haven’t seen the end of the investigations or lawsuits.

Despite the intense media glare on Flint, it seems that several key issues are still being missed. As an example, this editor has personally contacted several media outlets, spoken to reporters and activists, and have yet to see these key points pursued. So we march on.

  • the CSMR, a formula used to predict what effect a change in water treatment will have before implementing it, was completely ignored by the city of Flint, their engineering firm and the state of Michigan DEQ prior to changing their water source from Detroit water to Flint River water. They would have known before a single person was poisoned that the lead leaching issue would occur. No test period required. No hiding behind the EPA mandated back to back six month monitoring periods. Negligence pure and simple. Criminal? For the courts to decide.
  • the EPA continues to avoid the blame. It is the EPA and their Lead and Copper Rule that must be looked at as the root cause. Their sampling protocols are intentionally set up to fail. Utilities around the country are using a multitude of tweaks to insure they don’t exceed the 15 parts per billion action level for lead and 1,300 parts per billion action level for copper. To do so means just what it says, they must take action and action costs money. A plan to combat corrosion in water pipes can take up to FIVE years to implement. Legally. While the people are the lab rats being used to collect data. It certainly should be criminal. The so-called Safe Drinking Water Act is devised to balance the nations water supply safety with financial burdens upon utility companies and their associated cities and townships that operate them. The avalanche of stories hitting the news circuit now highlighting poisoning from water supplies across the country is not at all new, it’s only now newsworthy thanks to Flint. The costs to truly make the water supply safe will be massive and the EPA is directed by government leaders to mitigate that financial burden through legislation. At what price? You and your loved ones health, that’s all.
  • the fallout from the actions taken in Flint. The artificially large dose of corrosion control now in place to attempt to make up ground for the 17 months the city operated without any will have a consequence. The phosphates discharged through the normal drainage of the Flint River basin will eventually make their way into lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Saginaw Bay already exceeds their phosphate discharge levels annually which leads to toxic algae growth. Algal blooms are sure to follow impacting thousands of residents, fishermen and recreational users.
  • more fallout from actions taken to protect the people of Flint. Over 30,000 water filters passed out. Over 100,000 replacement filter cartridges issued. Those filter cartridges will end up in landfills. So will all the other lead related devices, traps, samples, etc. So will all the lead pipes that get replaced. Should Flint get federal money to go all in and replace every lead pipe in their distribution system as well as the homeowners that need to replace their in-home lead plumbing sources, well see a huge concentration of all of these lead items in local landfills at virtually the same time. When nature gets it way as it always does, that lead will eventually leach out of those landfills. Doesn’t matter if they have protective liners. Water always wins. It may take decades or even hundreds of years but somewhere along the way it is entirely possible a future generation will face a spike in groundwater lead. Having so much lead introduced into landfills at essentially the same time and the same depth means a large dose of toxic metal poised to leak out. An example of today’s problems being pushed down the road to be someone else’s problem.
  • the fact that the city of Flint Water Treatment Plant currently has operators employed that have failed to meet minimum certification standards. The DEQ oversees the operator training and certification program for water treatment plant operators. Within 18 months of employment, an operator must obtain a minimum certification license known as an F-4. Flint has operators employed since March of 2014 that have not yet become licensed operators. This information is public knowledge and available on the state DEQ website. Yet no one anywhere even discusses it. Given the magnitude of the Flint water crisis, one would think having certified operators would be of primary importance.
  • now that a corrosion control program is finally in place in Flint people naturally want to know how long before the water is safe to drink again. Particularly since the EPA approved water filters are only good for up to 150pbb of lead. No one even wants to venture a guess publicly. A 2003 study showed that it takes approximately one year to reduce lead levels back below the allowable limit (15pbb) once the protective lining inside the pipes has been compromised as you can read for yourself on page 15 of this study.

Those are a few critical issues not in the news cycle. Hopefully that will change soon as the citizens of not just Flint but the entire country deserve to know the whole truth.

The Iran deal is and always was a business deal

With Iran it’s strictly business

Cal Thomas, you’re dead on so far. Iran is a capitalist’ dream. It’s the blueprint of the corporate-military-industrial-government (CMIG) complex. All intertwined, all co-dependent. Since Iran has already secured the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon in short order, making a deal with Obama was a no-brainer. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain. So Cal starts out on point.

Rouhani’s state visit, the first by an Iranian president in nearly 20 years, follows the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, the world’s leading supporter of terrorism. Corporate giants and politicians are salivating at the prospect of doing business with a regime led by a man who has referred to Israel as “an old wound” that “should be removed.”

The $150 billion gift from Obama is just the tip of the iceberg. Iran has $700 billion in mineral wealth, not oil, just waiting to be mined and sold in global markets. But then Cal goes astray.

There is plenty of money to be made in deals with the devil, but at what cost? In the 1930s when European and American businesses traded with the Nazis, the rationale seemed to be, “If we don’t sell to them, someone else will.” That amoral view, no doubt, contributed to the slaughter of an estimated 11 million people. Six million of these were Jews.

Re-visiting this hall of shame ought to at least give corporate and political bodies pause when dealing with a regime that seems perfectly willing to finish the job Hitler and his brownshirts started. Have they learned so little from history that they are willing to repeat it?

Why astray? Will the CMIG give pause due to moral or ethical reasons? That’s a serious question?

Will companies signing up to do business with Iran be shamed and perhaps forced by law at a future date to pay reparations to the families of those killed by Islamic terrorists funded by the Iranian regime?

Shamed? Has Cal Thomas learned so little from history that he is willing to believe that the CMIG has a new moral imperative to do the right thing and put American values and welfare above profit and power?

Truth be told, I suspect Cal Thomas knows quite well that the almighty buck triumphs. The global war over natural resources is only gaining strength over time. These are commodities that never lose value. That means fluctuations in price are not the only component in determining value. Controlling markets, land and property access, mineral rights, and the array of other factors that go into determining the true value of the finite riches earth has to offer mean it’s always going to be a war. The boys with the most toys win. Tis why we’ll make deals with the Devil right to the bitter end.


Snyder caught forcing Flint to switch to a toxic water source? Or is a national publication caught distorting the truth?

The headline is the impression one gets when reading this headline at The Daily Beast.

Exclusive: Gov. Rick Snyder’s Men Originally Rejected Using Flint’s Toxic River

The emergency manager for Flint, Michigan, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2012, rejected using the city’s river as drinking water after consulting with the state’s environmental protection agency

You really need to read the entire article CAREFULLY as it exposes itself as ignoring the intent and instead choosing a conclusion that attempts to point the finger at Snyder as the reason Flint residents were poisoned.

How could the river that was rejected as Flint’s permanent water source in December 2012 suddenly become suitable for consumption a mere 16 months later?

And who actually made the disastrous choice to start using the previously rejected river as the city’s temporary water source?

Here’s the problem. The story and the court case it references are all about cost cutting in Flint. First you need to read this from the article.

In a civil deposition not reported until now, Ambrose testified under oath that emergency manager Kurtz considered a proposal to use the Flint River, discussed the option with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and then rejected it.

In 2014, Ambrose was deposed in a civil lawsuit brought by retired Flint municipal workers against the state over severe cuts to their health care benefits. Attorney Alec Gibbs questioned Ambrose about the water decision (a year before Flint learned it was being poisoned).

“There was brief evaluation of whether the city would be better off to simply use the Flint River as its primary source of water over the long term,” Ambrose said. “That was determined not to be feasible.”

“Who determined it wasn’t feasible?” Gibbs asked.

“It was a collective decision of the emergency management team based on conversations with the MDEQ that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of the Flint River on a long-term basis as a primary source of water,” Ambrose answered.

“What was the reason they gave?” Gibbs asked.

“You’ll have to ask them,” Ambrose said.

The story reads as if a deposition was uncovered by former emergency manager Ambrose that discussed former emergency manager Kurtz and the decision he arrived at after consulting with the MDEQ in which the Flint River was so corrosive it wasn’t feasible for use long-term. Then a supporting statement is given that the decision was overruled by Snyder as testified to by former Flint Director of Public Works Howard Croft.

Howard Croft, the former director of public works for Flint who resigned in November 2015, asserted more than four months ago in a videotaped interview with the ACLU of Michigan that the decision to use the dangerously corrosive river came directly from the Snyder administration.

In the interview, Croft said that the decision to use the river was a financial one, with a review that “went up through the state.”

“All the way to the governor’s office?” the ACLU of Michigan asked him.

“All the way to the governor’s office,” Croft replied.

What’s the key phrase? The decision to use the river was a financial one. Which everyone now knows. In other words, it wasn’t a feasible long-term primary source of water for FINANCIAL reasons, not water quality issues. Recall that Flint utilized the river as a primary source of water until 1967 when they switched to Detroit water. They also utilized it as the backup source until 2014 when they switched back to the river as the primary source. History shows that the river was usable with the proper treatment. The entire water crisis centers around the fact that a corrosion control program wasn’t implemented by the city during the time it used the river as a primary source from April 2014 through October 2015.

However, readers of the Daily Beast article will get the impression that the river was rejected by the EM’s due to a water quality issue.

How could the river that was rejected as Flint’s permanent water source in December 2012 suddenly become suitable for consumption a mere 16 months later?

Not true. A complete fabrication and distortion of the truth. Suitable for consumption was already answered in prior years. What were the EM’s tasked with?

Both men were tasked by the Republican governor’s administration with restructuring the city’s government to save money after it was in danger of becoming insolvent.

Saving money. The civil disposition of Gerald Ambrose “not reported” until now is promoted as a smoking gun document that ties Snyder to the poisoning. It’s meaningless. If the Daily Beast really wants to go out and uncover an exclusive to get to Snyder, they need to find evidence that it was Snyder himself that directed a corrosion control program not be utilized. Merely linking him to the source water switch decision is already a given based upon the directive given to the emergency managers to save money.

I’ve stated previously that I’m not a Snyder supporter and hope he is held accountable should it be determined that he’s guilty of the decisions that led to the lead poisoning. But I won’t stand by and let publications like the Daily Beast distort the truth in a partisan political stunt simply to get to a republican. Shame on you Daily Beast. There are already enough lies and distortions concerning Flint and what happened, taking cheap shots isn’t helping.

The ONLY decision that matters, particularly when it comes to legal liability, is who or whom made the decision to not utilize corrosion control. An email dated Sept. 3, 2015 from former DPW Director Howard Croft to the Flint Technical Advisory Team at least partially answers the question.

At the onset of our plant design, optimization for lead was addressed and discussed with the engineering firm and with the DEQ. It was determined that having more data was advisable prior to the commitment of a specific optimization method.

There you have it. It was the Michigan DEQ. The engineering firm didn’t have the authority to decline corrosion control. Nor did the city of Flint. Only the DEQ. We have since found out that the DEQ misinterpreted the EPA Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule requirement that a city with a population over 50,000 was required to maintain a corrosion control program after a source water switch. Even though the city was conducting two consecutive six month monitoring periods as required to determine if an optimal corrosion control program is necessary, the law says they MUST utilize corrosion control during that process. They didn’t. The lead leached out and people were poisoned and the rest is history. Again, it was the DEQ and only the DEQ that had the authority to allow Flint to not use corrosion control.

It is highly unlikely that Gov. Snyder ever had a whisper of knowledge what was transpiring in Flint. These were mundane, bureaucratic level decisions. The type that go on every day in the myriad of government agencies. Municipalities changing chemicals or water sources is hardly a requirement of direct Governor oversight. As I said, if for some strange reason he had his fingers in it, then let him pay. But it is possible he was briefed due to the money saving aspect with the emergency manager involvement. But to not use corrosion control? He probably didn’t even know what it was before all of this went down.

Is he ultimately responsible because all DEQ employees work for him? Sure. But to ever prove the negligence required to pass legal muster is going to take something the public hasn’t seen yet. And just wouldn’t make any sense unless you’re on-board with the conspiracy crowd that thinks that the privileged, rich white boy is just out to get the black man.

Stay tuned. We’ll keep seeking the truth and exposing the lies.

More Flint water problems coming this summer?

First it was excessive TTHM’s. Then it was excessive lead. Possibly even a cause of Legionnaire’s Disease although a conclusive link has yet to be made. It’s been a rough 21 months for the Flint, Michigan water supply. Now Flint has returned to purchasing water from Detroit until the new Karegnondi pipeline supplying Lake Huron water directly to Flint is ready later this summer. It would appear Flint has turned the corner on its water quality issues and can now focus solely on dealing with the fallout. Or has it? Could there be another consequence yet to come?

Possibly, but it won’t be the citizens of Flint that are directly affected. It will be the people who live in the Saginaw Bay basin of Lake Huron. Why? Because that’s where the Flint River discharges, into the Saginaw Bay. Let me explain.

First of all, this is just theory and there is no accurate way to predict a certain outcome in this scenario as there are too many other unknown variables. Let’s start with what we do know. Flint is now using Detroit water which contains orthophosphate in the form of phosphoric acid as a corrosion control agent. This chart from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department shows that .33 mg/L of phosphorus were measured in the tap water at the Lake Huron Plant which is now supplying Flint with its water. The DEQ sent the DWSD a letter dated March 3, 2000 specifying that Detroit maintain a phosphate dosage of .9 mg/L at each of the plant taps with a .8 mg/L residual. The .33 mg/L measured is far too low but may be boosted elsewhere in the distribution system. That information was not available. In addition, Flint is adding an additional 2.5 milligrams per liter of phosphate at its Water Treatment Plant. The excess phosphate is thought to be necessary to build up the scale on the pipe walls faster to lock the lead back in place.

The unknown question is how much of this supercharged dose of phosphate will work its way through the entire distribution system, the homes and businesses, the sewer system and then finally the wastewater treatment plant to be discharged into the Flint River and finally into Saginaw Bay. Once there, it is the primary driver of algal blooms, which are toxic. Lake Erie makes the national news virtually every summer with their algal blooms which trigger boil water advisories and potentially even the inability to use the public water supply. Also keep in mind that many avenues exist in which this water will never make it to the wastewater plant to be treated before returning to the Flint River. Leaks in the distribution system, lawn watering, industrial discharges, hydrant flushing to an extent, fire fighting, etc. Anytime water doesn’t go down the sewer it is absorbed into the ground in which the drain for that is the entire Flint River drainage basin leading to Saginaw Bay.

Lest you think this is all about nothing, Saginaw Bay already regularly exceeds its target of 440 metric tonnes of phosphate per year. This report illustrates how the target of 15 micrograms per liter (micrograms are a thousand times smaller than the milligrams of phosphate being fed by the Detroit and Flint water treatment plants) is regularly overshot. It also shows how municipal discharges (wastewater treatment plant) are a primary source of phosphate loading in the Saginaw Bay.

In fact, of all the rivers and tributaries that drain into the Saginaw Bay, it is the Flint River that feeds the greatest percentage of phosphorous at 21.1% (see Table 6). Furthermore, the phosphorus load contributed by the Flint River wastewater treatment plant is over 42,000 Kg/per year, nearly double that of the Saginaw River (see Table 8).

As you can see, the phosphorous loading of the Saginaw Bay already exceeds target levels set to eliminate algal blooms. The Flint River is the worst offender and the Flint wastewater treatment plant is the major source of phosphorous loading in the bay. Now that phosphates at an artificially high rate are being used to combat the lead corrosion issue in Flint, it’s a reasonable assumption to conclude that even higher levels are headed to Saginaw Bay. If Michigan should experience a hot summer this year, the algal bloom problem could really rear its ugly head.

Problems abound with algal blooms. This NOAA report studies the stress factors on the bay. The bay is very shallow, less than 5 feet deep in most places, and very susceptible to algal blooms. It serves a half million people and waterborne disease is a serious issue.

A priority concern in the Saginaw Bay watershed is the run-off of phosphorus-applied to farmland in fertilizers to maximize crop growth-draining from the land into the bay. As phosphorus stimulates plant growth for crops, this nutrient also stimulates algal growth in the bay. While some phosphorus is needed in the water for the growth of aquatic plants, too much of this nutrient can stimulate the growth of nuisance and toxic algae, namely cyanobacteria. Historically, in response to this water quality problem plaguing Saginaw Bay and other areas of the Great Lakes, the GLWQA established an aggressive phosphorus reduction program in 1978. The GLWQA provides guidance on strategies to reduce the amount of phosphorus used on farmland and the discharge of phosphorus from municipalities and industrial sources. Under the 1978 GLWQA, phosphorus levels in detergents were also reduced.

As a result of less phosphorus draining into the bay, the frequency and occurrence of harmful algal blooms (caused by cyanobacteria) appeared to decrease in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This improvement, however, was short-lived, and within a decade’s time, large blooms of cyanobacteria were found, including toxic colonial cyanobacteria, and benthic filamentous algae, such as Cladophora. In addition, human health risks emerged with the production of toxins by some strains of the cyanobacteria, such as Microsystis, that can affect the liver and skin.

With the sorry track record the Flint water supply already has, it would be piling on to add on another toxic outcome to the list, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

UPDATED*** Since going to press, a study just released in the UK has shown a definitive link between algae toxins, specifically BMAA, and brain disease including Alzheimers- Excessive algae growth, particularly in a shallow bay with heavy recreational use, is a serious issue.

Some good news. Spellchek has been pointing out that the Flint water problems go all the way to the top. It is a government created problem with a government solution being touted as the only fix possible. Standard establishment, big government 101. It is in fact the Safe Drinking Water Act that is the driver of Flint water problems. State and local governments, municipalities and other water utilities are all trying to adhere to a set of minimum standards that are weak. The cherry on top is the EPA actively involved in rigging the system to get cities across the nation to not violate the law. Media outlets around the world are getting in on the real backstory. It goes way beyond Flint. Take this story from the Guardian for example.

US authorities distorting tests to downplay lead content of water

Exclusive: Documents seen by the Guardian reveal questionable practices that mean people’s drinking water is at risk in ‘every major city east of the Mississippi’

Water authorities across the US are systematically distorting water tests to downplay the amount of lead in samples, risking a dangerous spread of the toxic water crisis that has gripped Flint, documents seen by the Guardian show.

The controversial approach to water testing is so widespread that it occurs in “every major US city east of the Mississippi” according to an anonymous source with extensive knowledge of the lead and copper regulations. “By word of mouth, this has become the thing to do in the water industry. The logical conclusion is that millions of people’s drinking water is potentially unsafe,” he said.

Why would the EPA proactively ensure that cities meet legal standards by using unethical practices? Why, the almighty buck of course. Toxins in our nations water supply are a monumental problem. Extremely vast and extremely expensive to repair. More costly than state and local budgets can possibly absorb. When taken in context with the plethora of other infrastructure problems confronting the nation, we can see that there isn’t a budget large enough to ever solve them all. Besides, big government looks at the macro picture. It isn’t just the construction industry involved. Other stakeholders are healthcare, pharmaceuticals, legal, etc., etc. that make money on the back end dealing with the fallout from government created pandemics.

If the public ever really wants to stop being played for fools and avoid repeats of Flint, they will have to start with the painfully obvious. Government is the problem. Yet another election cycle with standard left/right squabbling will solve nothing. We are light years away from a solution as a country since most have yet to even see the problem, let alone devise a solution.

Anonymous strikes Flint!

The above video was posted by the Anonymous group, a collection of activists that specialize in hacking. Well, we’ve certainly learned one thing. Anonymous are partisan leftists. I’ve stated before that I’m not a Snyder backer. Certainly didn’t vote for him. But to date no one anywhere has provided a specific piece of evidence that Snyder ordered the Code Red and purposely poisoned the people of Flint. Failed to act? That’s another story.

If you’re really interested in taking down the ultimate authority on the Flint water crisis, it goes well beyond the Governor of a State. The Federal Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has to shoulder their share of the blame as well as Congress for passing the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) and the President for signing it. So you can make the case that it goes all the way to the top if you want a fall guy.

It is the SWDA that allows a 15 parts per billion level of lead in our drinking water when no amount is safe. It is the Lead and Copper Rule clarification of the SDWA that allows a water utility to operate and deliver water to the population for up to FIVE YEARS while an optimal corrosion control program is developed and implemented. All of the negligence and mismanagement that has occurred at the federal, state and local levels has been in the interpretation and adherence to the SDWA.

Even if you keep narrowly focused on blaming republicans for austerity and cost cutting as the culprit, it is the SDWA that gives the wiggle room necessary to jeopardize the health and welfare of the citizens. Take away the allowable lead level and the half a decade window in which to use the populace as guinea pigs to collect data and the opportunity for politicians to compromise the law vanishes.

Looking for the true villains? It’s bureaucracy. Our government that is supposed to be in place to serve the people but is instead self-serving.