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.