Chemistry, The Problem is C-H-E-M-I-S-T-R-Y

Flint Water Quality is Now a Presidential Campaign Issue

Lab Rat Image 4Governor Snyder’s many attempts to deflect responsibility and and tamp down adverse media coverage of the Flint water situation are failing miserably. Snyder cannot make a public appearance without getting peppered with antagonistic questions about the circumstances behind the Flint water sourcing change. National International media are now all over this story, and their coverage is ugly. Democrats are having a field day promoting the ‘uncaring Republican’ meme. This story is going to really hurt the Republican Party’s 2016 Presidential nominee unless it is spiked quickly. Hillary Clinton is already using it.

Snyder’s ineptitude at handling the Flint situation, plunging from a deep hole into the abyss, also creates great risks for taxpayers across Michigan. We have already pointed out that skilled, predatory legal vultures are circling the Michigan Treasury. The torrent of adverse publicity will predispose any jury they impanel to hammer the State of Michigan financially. Now a variety of self-interested parties within and without Flint are proposing an avalanche of new, State-paid goodies for the citizens of Flint. These acts of contrition will be paid for by Michigan taxpayers who played no role in the Flint water situation and will not receive any benefit from a lavish expenditure of their hard earned dollars.

Snyder’s political career is over, but he will enjoy his remaining days living in well earned obscurity akin to his mentor Bill Milliken. You can safely bet that our accountant-in-chief will use his single real world skill to avoid paying the penance for his decisions. Michigan taxpayers, Republicans, and conservatives will take the big hit here.

Someone competent has to step forward and quell this situation before it becomes a major drain on Michigan’s taxpayers. Governor Snyder just announced a Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, but 14 of its putative members are the usual political drones that Michigan politicians hide behind. Only three positions of the FWICC are reserved for ‘subject matter experts’, and those experts are to be named at a later date. This dearth of technical talent confirms to all that the FWICC is not a serious effort to address the Flint water situation. Governor Snyder has resorted to this same political fan dance before, after the Enbridge Line 6B oil pipeline rupture. It is not working this time because there is just too much salacious interest across the country in the Flint water story.

Lead Chloride Pourbaix DiagramThe first and foremost problem in Flint is chemistry. Get Flint drinking water chemistry under control and then you can actually make a case that the entire situation is coming under control. You cannot do this with just three, yet to be named, ‘subject matter experts’. Flint desperately needs competent chemists with backgrounds in thermodynamics and inorganic chemistry to formulate a plan. More than three, you won’t find the entire body of knowledge needed in a trio. Not political drones, but real practicing chemists who understand the Pourbaix diagram shown at right. Not civil engineers, not water pollution bureaucrats, not bureaucratically successful state department heads, most certainly not lawyers of any stripe. If the FWICC is to have any positive effect upon Flint’s water quality, chemistry must be its core competence.

SPC Chart Image 1Flint Water Plant personnel must be trained in statistical process control to effectively implement the chemists’ adjustment plan. The best plan to adjust the chemistry of a continuous process fails when its implementation fails. Someone on the FWICC must have a complete command of modern process control and be able to explain the beauty of the SPC chart shown at left to the decision makers. Implementing SPC is quite a bit different from dictating legal controls; the usual stock in trade of political drones. If legal controls over water had any worth, this entire Flint water situation would never have arisen.

The Enemy!

The Enemy!

At least one metallurgist with a background in corrosion is needed to confirm that the adjustments are working. A metallurgist with the resources to conduct a lot of laboratory work; work that is completely beyond the current resources of any Michigan government unit. The metallurgy of corrosion is even snakier than usual run of the mill metallurgical disputation, so this metallurgist is going to need really good communication skills. Otherwise the political drones on the FWICC will be totally lost.

Finally, the FWICC needs epidemiologists well versed in lead toxicity and its remediation. Some deleterious effects of lead exposure are reversible by reducing lead burdens, others are not. The residents of Flint deserve authoritative testing and remedial medical advice from genuine epidemiologists. State funded preschool is not a medical prescription, it is a political prescription. The FWICC is going to need real epidemiologists to separate politically correct fantasies from real remediation of the damage done.

Water is Money ImageYou do not build public confidence by handing out filters for kitchen taps. This only heightens the concerns of Flint residents about the water coming from their other taps. You do not build public confidence by handing out bottled water. You do not build public confidence by concealing the Flint Water Plant’s Monthly Operating Reports. None have been published since August 2015’s MOR. You do not build public confidence by allowing municipal politicians to evade Headlee by using water billings as a revenue substitute for limited taxes. There was a very good reason that Flint abandoned Detroit water which seems to have escaped public attention. Perhaps because Flint’s thievery compounded Detroit Water & Sewerage’s piracy, turning this issue into a muddle.

You build public confidence by putting competent chemists in charge of a chemistry problem. A fundamental tenet of management which appears to have escaped the attention of our businessman Governor. You build public confidence by getting political drones out of the loop. They already have powerful sinecures from which they can frustrate the subject matter experts. You build public confidence by preventing predatory officials in one bankrupt municipality from preying upon other bankrupt municipalities. You build public confidence by releasing all pertinent information to the public. Michigan’s government has earned a well deserved reputation for opacity. Any wonder no one believes Governor Snyder? Think a new committee of political drones will fare any better in the public’s esteem?

Flint water quality is now a persuasive national issue in the 2016 Presidential race. Michigan’s Republican establishment owns it. Perhaps they should give their devious attacks upon the Tea Party a rest for long enough to extricate their frontman, Governor Snyder, from his latest folly.

You Betcha! (20)Nuh Uh.(4)

  5 comments for “Chemistry, The Problem is C-H-E-M-I-S-T-R-Y

  1. Sue Schwartz
    January 13, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    87 Cases a Legionnaires Disease/10 deaths and a cover-up of more than a year. Usually Legionnaires can be traced to a single source but not this outbreak of two years duration. Hey, it's not the water!!!!!!


    You Betcha! (8)Nuh Uh.(4)
  2. KG One
    January 14, 2016 at 2:15 am

    "Snyder cannot make a public appearance without getting peppered with antagonistic questions about the circumstances behind the Flint water sourcing change"

    I've got to ask if you're being serious or sarcastic with this one?

    I've seen the video of Gov. Snyder speaking about Flint this twice this week from local TV stations, and truthfully, he came off both times about as clueless as one could be regarding the gravity of this situation.

    The first time was on WDIV in Detroit (Channel 4) which carried the raw video feed from his presser in Flint from earlier this week on their website.

    Gov. Snyder walked into the room with his entourage grinning like an idiot. When the presser began, he continued being all smiles, telling the media how the situation was well and everything was under control, until Hank Winchester (Channel 4) contradicted literally everything that the governor said was going on (i.e. water & water filter availability around Flint). He started to become visibly agitated and things went downhill from there.

    The second time was on WXYZ (Channel 7) when they were reporting about how difficult it was getting straight answers from anyone in the Snyder Administration and cut to another presser. Jim Kiertzner was able to get the governor to turn around and answer a two-part question regarding scheduling a sit-down interview with him and to address the falling amount of trust in him.

    He took the second part first where Gov. Snyder went into a 30-second tirade about the lack of civility in the media (that soundbite I've heard replayed on several stations around the state already) and then stormed out of the room like a petulant child, with his posse right behind him.

    Like I mentioned above, I'm of the strong opinion that Rick Snyder is like a deer stuck in the middle of the road staring at the headlights.

    And in my profession, the deer isn't going to be standing there for very long.

    One last thing: Has anyone heard about the B&E in Flint four days ago?

    According to the Flint Journal, Water Department documents may be missing?

    You Betcha! (4)Nuh Uh.(0)
  3. JD
    January 14, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    "..According to the Flint Journal, Water Department documents may be missing?..."

    Someone in the private sector needs to step forward here and give an accurate accounting of what water documents would normally be kept in any Michigan City's files given that any matching state documentation has long been destroyed.

    When the (now) missing documents that we FOIA for both are denied for obvious reasons?..therein lies the (true) story of this tragedy.

    If we let them slide on this glaring aspect of FlintGate (presently) receiving little or no attention..these poisoned kids will never forgive us.

    You Betcha! (5)Nuh Uh.(1)
    • JD
      January 15, 2016 at 8:41 am

      ...we also need to keep in mind that the Attorney General's office announced their investigation in to this mess on January 15, 2015 while the break-in/cover up happened over the Christmas weekend or well over two weeks before even that long delayed date. The AG office made it clear that no investigation was previously ongoing by making the unusual announcement that "office policy generally precludes the confirmation of investigations.." but that "the process for moving forward with the investigation will 'begin' immediately."

      Had an investigation IMMEDIATELY began when this story first broke (or more accurately when the AG office first learned of what had happened in Flint 'period') these same records that no one in state government will speak to since the break-in occurred would have (presumably) been IMMEDIATELY seized and NEVER put at risk for tampering or worse.

      If Snyder's communication guru could be quickly shuttled out of town and all settled in to a new cushy career/soft landing back in November?...we can assume that any investigation in to Flint children being poisoned could have been jump-started during at least the same month that her fate was deemed much more important than every single one of these children's.

      You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)
  4. roug
    January 18, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Big government in all its expertise, efficiency and benevolence might have ever so slightly missed the mark on this one little thing. However I'm certain that everything else it decides to provide us with in future waves of benevolence will work out a whole lot better.

    We are collectively one big fat damsel in distress.

    You Betcha! (2)Nuh Uh.(0)

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