Thursday, January 28, 2016

Flint Water: A Political Football. Part 14

Let's look at the Veolia report a bit closer.

In a previous post, I indicated that this date was important:
  • February 18, 2015  The City of Flint tests the drinking water at the Walters residence. Tests reveal high lead in the drinking water (104 ug/L)
  • February 18, 2015 Rob Nicholas, vice president for Veolia, states in a news conference that "(The problems) are less about the water itself and more about the (transmission pipes)." [source]
How unfortunate. Violia is there in Flint and was hired by Flint for their expertise:
Veolia appreciates the City’s decision to seek independent third parties to review current treatment processes, maintenance procedures and actions taken to date, and provide ideas for improvement. We are pleased to present this final report to the City of Flint following our experts’ 160-hour assessment of the water treatment plant, distribution system, customer service and communications programs, and capital plans and annual budget
One of those "ideas for improvement" was this:
Increase of Ferric Chloride – Four coagulants were tested by Veolia -ferric chloride, ferric sulfate, polyaluminum chloride (PACI) and aluminum chlorohydrate (ACH). Ferric chloride and ACH were found to be the best choice of product for effectiveness in removing TOC, a precursor to TTHM formation. 
I wrote about the addition of Ferric Chloride causing problems in this post.
March 2015: The City of Flint increases the Ferric Chloride dosage used in the filtration process to improve the removal of disinfection byproduct precursor material, in an effort to lower the TTHM levels. research found this:
In practical case studies, coagulation with a chloride-based coagulant (e.g., ferric chloride) tended to increase lead leaching from simulated copper joints... 
...which is probably why on:
March 03, 2015: The City of Flint re-tests lead levels in drinking water at Walters’ residence. The lead level measured is 397 ug/L (ppb).
But that's not really the issue I want to point out. Remember why Veolia was hired, and remember what they said. They (Veolia) recommended using Ferric Chloride, which the city did. Veolia also provide warm fuzzy pats on the behind for everyone:
From our review, these numerous efforts demonstrate how the city is trying to be transparent and responsive beyond what many other communities might do in similar circumstances. 
Remember what was known about lead in two samples on Feb 18th and March 3rd. Remember who took those samples (the City of Flint).

Now read this from Veolia's report:
The City should be congratulated on its efforts to keep the public informed. It is posting its monthly reports on the web page to provide transparency, though these reports are highly technical – and may be too technical for the customer base at large
No one would have known about those lead results had it not been for the Del Toral EPA memo.

Those lead results were known by the city at the same time Veolia was there. In Veolia's own words we are told this:
It is our desire to help Flint residents and public officials better understand the current situation so that informed decisions can be made to ensure safe drinking water for the city’s customers.
Now go back and read their March 12th report. I'll wait.

Notice what's missing? Now go back and do a search for the word "lead." I'll wait.

Did you find what's missing?

Now go back to February 18th's news conference when Rob Nicholas, vice president for Veolia, says this:
"It's less about the water itself and more about the pipes," he said. "You're just getting debris flushed out of the pipes ... You don't want to drink it because it looks bad."
In my view, you cannot point the finger at one person and say; 'that's him! that's the culprit!'

This is a collective failure of those in the know and those with decision making responsibility.

It's not the using of Flint River water that was a bad decision, it was the failure to have in place what would be needed to treat that water. This was, in my opinion, ground zero for what I consider a failure that cannot be spun away with hindsight.

Once the spigot was opened it was doomed to fail because they had not put in place what was needed to properly treat the water. I have shown that in these last posts so my SPECULATION is supported.

Once it was found to be failing, the spin train started and the failures started piling up:
  1. Veolia failed the City of Flint by not addressing the lead that was detected in the Willams' home.
  2. Veolia failed the City of Flint by not addressing corrosion control as it relates to the issue of lead. The only recommendation for corrosion control was that "the water system could add a polyphosphate to the water as a way to minimize the amount of discolored water."
  3. The City of Flint failed by not reporting the two lead results from the Williams home. This did not keep the "public informed" and this did not "provide transparency." 
  4. The EPA failed when it failed to address the lead found at the Williams' home and addressed by the EPA's Del Toral, telling those wanting an answer on safety that “it would be premature to draw any conclusions” 
  5. The MDEQ failed by issuing all sorts of statements telling the public everything was okay and those that said there was a problem were out for some agenda. For example: "The connection between water and blood is there's other sources of lead getting into kids' blood. Historically lead has represented approximately less than 20 percent on the average of lead found in kids' blood as the's not the big source historically.
  6. The Mayor of Flint failed when he drank the water to prove it was safe.
  7. The MDHHS failed when it did not look at the blood-lead levels in children by zip code and then criticized the work of a doctor who did trying to discredit her.
I'm sure you can come up with a whole bunch more. So I guess to put an end to these 14 posts I need to kind of end with a summary.

Here is the lesson I take away from all of this.

When there is a change from the norm, you need to be observant to ensure that the change has not created any problems.  Just like organic kitty-litter is kitty-litter, it is fundamentally different from clay kitty-litter.

Same goes for water. In the case of Flint all eyes should have focused on lead leaching out once the corosivity of the Flint River water was known to be an issue due to the age and condition of the water system and the homes it fed. At that point, the MDHHS should have been looking closely at blood-lead levels in children under 5 years of age and the MDEQ should have been out there testing for lead.

Lead was a real hazard to the public if it was leaching out due to the corosivity of the water.

So the takeaway from all of this is that when treating water to be used for drinking, its all about the water chemistry.

Flint is a casebook study of what not to do with drinking water.  But in case you have forgotten:

Thanks for reading!


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