Flint’s Water Supply Disaster… Who Is To Blame?

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“Hello. This is Miguel Del Toral from EPA Region 5, and I’d like to speak with you about problems with drinking water in Flint Michigan.”

(EPA Region 5 lead-in-water expert Miguel Del Toral)

As most are well aware, the city of Flint, Michigan is in the midst of a very serious problem with its water supply, caused by lead that seeped out of old plumbing and poisoning the community. The city had switched to a new water supply a couple of years ago, from the Detroit water system to using water from the Flint River. The new water supply was harder water than the Detroit supply, and that inadvertently caused the very old pipes to leach lead into the drinking water, poisoning the community.  Up to today, I was certain that it was strictly due to a cost-cutting move, and nothing else, and the Governor is, rightly or wrongly, being vilified for not acting sooner to stop Flint from using the water. That is the way the New York Times spelled it out:

In a cost-cutting move in 2014, the struggling city switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River. Residents began to complain, and elevated levels of lead were found in some children.

Here is how The Atlantic portrayed the switch:

“To save money, the city began drawing its water from the Flint River, rather than from Detroit’s system, which was deemed too costly. But the river’s water was high in salt, which helped corrode Flint’s aging pipes, leaching lead into the water supply.”


“Flint, Michigan, lies about 70 miles from the shores of the largest group of fresh water bodies in the world: the Great Lakes. Yet its residents can’t get clean water from their taps.

Nearly two years ago, the state decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron (which they were paying the city of Detroit for), to the Flint River, a notorious tributary that runs through town known to locals for its filth.”

The story of how this happened is murky though and not just as a cost-cutting move as is presented in some articles. As CNN notes, the plan was to build a new water supply from another water distric, which would draw from the same source as the Detroit system, Lake Huron. It would be as safe as the Detroit system. The plumbing will  be newer, and when completed, it will indeed save money. Seems like a win-win. The plan seemed sound from what I can tell.  Note too that the community at large supported the move:

“Flint and Genesee County voted in 2013 to form a new water authority to draw their own water from Lake Huron and treat it. Flint had long complained about the price Detroit charged for water.

When Detroit calculates a water rate for a community, it factors in how far the water must be pumped. Elevation increases pumping costs.”

So the switch was not just an arbitrary thing as some are making it out to be. It was discussed at length. When it became clear that Flint was going to move into a new water delivery arrangement with another supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department threw a fit! They complained to the state that Detriot, which is already in bankruptcy, would be further hurt financially from the lost sale of water, and when the state declined to get involved, Detroit gave it’s one year notice of the cancellation of water delivery to Flint, so Flint could not keep buying water from Detroit until they new system was on line. Detroit does offer to renegotiate a new water contract, but Flint declines. That is why the city ended up using water from the Flint river as a temporary water source before the new water delivery system was in place.

Note, the river had long been considered an alternate source of water in the city plans, and was thought to be safe. The lead that has caused the problems is NOT from the river itself, but from the pipes delivering the water to the community.

Governments, like people, make many decisions over time that seem fine at first. But it’s only when the results of that decision plays out that the downsides of that decision become obvious.

Fast forward to now… And the obvious. The handling and delivery of the new source of water was a disaster. The blame for this falls squarely on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the states equivalent of the EPA. They did not apply adequate anti-corrosion procedures to ensure the water would be delivered to the Flint residence safely. Here is a summary of the timeline of events that lead to the present situation:

* Water was switched over in April of 2014. By June, residents are complaining about the smell, color, and taste of the water coming from the tap.

* In August, the Flint water supply tests positive for E. Coli, and residents are urged to boil their water.

* By October, GM has switched to a different water supply for its Flint factories because there are too many contaminants in the water, which interferes with the manufacturing process of engines and other parts.

* In January of 2015, after apparently getting rid of the E. Coli problem, Flint officials are telling residence that the water is safe to drink.

* Around the same time, the Univ. Of Michigan tests high lead levels in the water supplies on campus. They think it is a problem with the old water pipes on campus.

According to the Detroit Metro Times, the first indication that something was very VERY wrong surfaced in February, shortly after the UoM detected high levels of lead:

“On Feb. 26, Jennifer Crooks, Michigan program officer for the EPA’s Region 5, sent MDEQ staff an urgent message regarding high levels of lead in the water at the home of Flint resident LeeAnne Walters and her family, according to documents obtained by the ACLU of Michigan through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Crooks reported to MDEQ that Flint’s utilities manager, Mike Glasgow, had tested Walters’ home for lead.

“WOW!!!! Did he find LEAD!” Crooks exclaimed.

Lead levels of 104 parts per billion were detected — seven times the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

“She has two children under the age of 3,” Crooks wrote. “Big worries here.””

At that point, because lead poisoning is so serious, there should have been immediate action. Instead, the response was this:

“The next day, the MDEQ’s Stephen Busch, district supervisor for the Flint region, replied with an email assuring the EPA that the city of Flint did indeed have an optimized corrosion control program. But he offered no specifics.”

The city brushed off the high levels of lead in Mrs. Walters house as a problem with the house itself and not from the city water. It was, they explained, the pipes in her house that were shedding the enormous amounts of lead. The problem with that explanation is that her pipes were newer plastic PVC, which does not even contain lead. And the college would have filed a report on their finding of high lead in the water system at the college.

When asked about the extent of their anti-corrosion procedures to treat the Flint river water, the MQED says:

“The City of Flint…Has an Optimized Corrosion Control Program Conducts quarterly Water Quality Parameter monitoring at 25 sites and has not had any unusual results.”

Which, as it turns out, is a complete lie. They didn’t have an anti-corrosion system at all.

The Flint Water Supply Updates blog takes the story from there. At one point, the local EPA region 5 water expert Miguel Del Toral starts to get involved, and examines the situation at Walters’ home. He does confirm that her pipes are new PVC and could not have contaminated her water. But instead of taking immediate and urgent action to protect the citizens of Flint, which is their job, they side with the MQED, and go after Del Toral for leaking a document spelling out the dire situation that was unfolding in Flint.

But that, for now, is something to be dealt with later. Here is a superb article laying out just how horrific and criminal the MQED was in dealing with this very serious public health crisis in Flint, including “revising” reports and tampering with test parameters and results to try and cover the problems, and their serious mistakes.

Someone needs to go to jail over this.


Meet The New Corrupt Bosses… Same As Blah Blah Blah.

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So the news broke a few days ago via the Wall Street Journal that the NSA has recordings of Netanyahu bribing members of Congress to oppose the Iran nuke deal this fall. Caught them red-handed.

Raise your hand if you think anyone will be punished for it….

Of course they won’t. This is standard operating procedure. This is not new news. They were caught about 5 years ago doing the same thing. Nothing happened. Not every member of Congress is corrupt of course, but corruption and bribery are accepted practice in Washington. It’s so blindingly obvious.

And people wonder why so few get out and vote anymore.


Thoughts Of The Attacks In Paris.

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A poem or something I wrote, inspired by an article this morning about one of the survivors of the massacre at the Bataclan theater in Paris.


I’ve never seen a man walk so slow as he moves along the street
His eyes stare in the distance, focus on nothing
Not registering the flashing lights, the mournful cries
Or the chaos that surrounds him



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I was having an interesting conversation on Ruben Navarette’s facebook page, started when one commenter said the following:

“It is unconscionable for us to have the power to take down ISIS but to do as little as possible instead.”

After rebuffing that notion, someone asked me this:

“What do you suggest we do? Sitting back and doing nothing while ISIS gets stronger is an invitation for more of last night and then some.”

Here is the long and the short of it. Even though we and other western countries have been hit a few times, ultimately, this is not our fight. The only way this is permanently settled is going to be by the countries and populations in the middle east. This is a civil war. It can no more be won by us than our own civil war could have been one if Briton fought for the north instead of the Union soldiers themselves. Continue Reading »


Mary Alexander: Sept 18, 1932 – August 29, 2015.

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I just got word that my wonderful Mom passed away this morning. We knew this was coming soon, but was not expecting it so soon.

I’m still numb to the news. As happened when Dad died, it took a few days for me to really grieve. I’m expecting the same with Mom. It will happen when I get into full reflection mode on all the wonderful times I, and the family, had with her…. Because of her.

Since I can’t grieve yet, I’m writing a song called “Waiting For The Tears To Come” in her honor. It’s the thing I can do right now.




Vote Dan Schwartz For GOP Nomination

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Vote for Dan Schwartz for the GOP nomination!!!!!!!!!

Write him in if you have to…. To quote Tony The Tiger….. “Heeeeee’s GREAT”!!!!!


Explanation Of Moral Facts – Misses The Moral Boat.

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This is really a strange article. On the one hand, the author makes this point about the distinction between “truth” and “proof”:

“First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.”

So much wrong here:

“It could be true that there is life elsewhere…”. The inclusion of the modifier “could” automatically disqualifies this from being an actual fact. Even though the odds say there should be life elsewhere, there is no proof. Therefore, it’s not a fact. It is indeed opinion and / or conjecture.

“Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false”. So? I don’t get the point. The truth or facts change over time when evidence is discovered that disproves it. We do that in science, and in sociology. And as far as people believing the world was flat??? That wasn’t a common belief. It was based on ignorance of science. It was well known much farther back than the 1400’s, Columbus’s time, that the world was round. The belief that the world was flat was superstition, opinion, belief, held by those who were not skilled or taught science or math or nautical navigation. Ironically, the belief that the Christian Church believed the Earth was flat is also a myth.

And then, this:

Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.

Ignorantia juris non excusat

Good Lord! This guy is a teacher??? That is a horrible example to use! I can’t off the top of my head tell you the circumference of the Sun, but that doesn’t make the most accurate measure to date a fact. You don’t have to understand the chemical mechanism behind the effects of ingesting hemlock to know that doing so will kill you. It’s a very proven fact.

The author relates this interchange with his son:

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes….

I asked my son about this distinction [between fact and opinion] after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:

Me: “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?”

Him: “It’s a fact.”

Me: “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.”

Him: “Yeah, but it’s true.”

Me: “So it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

The blank stare on his face said it all.

If an opinion proves to be true, it is no longer an opinion; it is indeed a fact. And the example given, “I believe that George Washington was the first president”, is horrible if you are fleshing this out. The answer is actually a matter of opinion. There were seven Presidents of the United States of America under the articles of Confederation. The answer to the question depends on where you put the marker; at the first failed government of the country; or the second, under the successful one. I have no idea if either the author or his kid knew this… But Yeah… The blank stare did say it all. The author just misread it.

So, to the beginning of the article. How does this article start? It starts out this way:

“What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture. “

Question – How many of your students think it’s OK to kill people for fun???? Who ever answered “yes” to that question???

Who thinks cheating is not wrong??? I teach high school, and have run into instances of students cheating from time to time. To a letter, they know it’s wrong. But, because the good grade has been made the most important value in our school system, the cheating student will justify the act in order to get a better grade. It’s almost immoral to get low grades if you care about such things.

But the biggest problem with the article is, the author never establishes that, when breaking down the distinctions between facts, truth, and opinion, there are indeed moral truths.

PS. Just in case some may be inclined to think he’s some sort of religious nut, comments on facebook indicate he’s already been labeled as such, here is his rebuttal on the idea that the Bible says that homosexuality is a moral failing.


Another Concise (short) Rebuttal (counterclaim, reply) To A Dumb Argument Against Same Sex Marriage

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There is an interesting conversation going on on a Youtube video about same sex marriage, and whether you are being oppressive if you speak out against it. Here is one comment:

Oppression?  Give me a break!  Supporting marriage, as it was meant to be, (one man, one woman)  is not oppression, it’s preserving the human race.

Here is my reply:

I’m gay, and I, like all gays, I concur and whole heartedly join you in your support of marriages between one man and one woman. We also support extending the right / privilege to same sex couples. Gays are probably only about a 5 % of the population, and of that 5 %, about 20 % of those would choose to take that path. Statistically, that would be about .01 % of the population who would be entering into same sex unions.

Since people can and often do have babies without getting married, which means the human race is quite capable of preserving itself quite nicely, how is allowing and extending marriage to about .01 % of the population going to destroy the human race???????

I’m just asking.

Here’s the video that sparked the conversation.

UPDATE: And it gets more interesting. After one commenter notes “To condone sin is a sin, we are to be for God’s word and not what the world wants!”, I respond:

“OK… So why not leave the argument at that, instead of making stuff up about preserving the human race.

Now that we agree on that point, could you come back and list some of the times you’ve condoned other sins? Because I’m betting you’ve not taken the same stand with family and friends who you knew were committing other sins… It’s just that Gays are icky.?”

The reply?


Note that my question is never addressed. By not responding, the commenter seems to be admitting she is willing to ignore other sins in order to go after the favorite bugaboo. So, this statement “To condone sin is a sin” is meaningless then, isn’t it.


A Concise (short) Rebuttal (counterclaim, reply) To The One Dumb Argument Against Same Sex Marriage

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“I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

“I, ______, take you, ______, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

I, (name), take you, (name), to be my [opt: lawfully wedded] (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

(Name), I take you to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife). Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you with all your faults and your strengths as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.

I, (name), take you, (name), to be my beloved (wife/husband), to have and to hold you, to honor you, to treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.

In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.

______, wilt thou have this woman/man to be thy wife/husband, and wilt thou pledge thy faith to him/her, in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, to live with her/him, and cherish her/him, according to the ordinance of God, in the holy bond of marriage?

All these quotes are, of course, traditional wedding vows: Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc. Note the common themes – love and cherish, honor, richer / poorer, sickness / health, till death do us part.

The one thing you don’t see?

Now get down and have them big babies!!!!!!!!

It may be important to do, and marriage may make the bond between people who chose to be parent more permanent, but unlike “loving” and “cherishing” and “honoring” and staying together “Till death do us part”, having a child is an option, and not part of the pledge a couple makes, in front of God, or otherwise.

So please just stop using procreation as a reason why gay couples can’t get married.


Remember When Someone Said…. (With Update)

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Sarah Palin says this was an excellent night, that now the American people know we can turn things around because Romney was able to articulate that contrast that everyone has been desiring to see. As for Obama, she said he didn’t have answers because he was missing “his buddy the teleprompter”. Ha!

And This???

And This???

I think someone owes someone else a HUGE apology.

Actually, there are a whole lot of somebodies that owe someone an apology.

UPDATE! Uh Oh…. This might be worse than we though. There are reports that Sarah Palins teleprompter didn’t even go down. It may have glitched a couple of times, but it kept going.

Which of course means that she can’t even do this WITH a teleprompter!!!