Wednesday Morning: Water, Water, Everywhere [UPDATE]

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

— excerpt, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Felony and misdemeanor charges are expected today in the Flint water crisis. State Attorney General Bill Schuette will put on a media dog-and-pony show, when it is expected that three persons — two engineers with the Michigan Department of Environmental quality and a Flint water department employee — will be charged for Flint’s lead water levels after the cut-over to Flint River water.

Mind you, the descriptions of these persons do not match that of higher level persons who were responsible for

1) making the final decision to cut Flint off from Detroit’s water system and switching to the Flint river;
2) evaluating work performed by consulting firms about the viability of Flint River as a water source, or about reporting on lead levels after the cut-over;
3) ensuring the public knew on a timely basis the water was contaminated once it was already known to government officials;
4) lack of urgency in responding to a dramatic uptick in Legionnaire’s disease, or the blood lead levels in children.

Just for starters. Reading the Flint water crisis timeline (and yes, it needs updating), it’s obvious negligence goes all the way to the top of state government, and into the halls of Congress.

Michigan’s Governor Snyder has elected to perform some weird self-flagellating mea culpa or performance art, by insisting he and his wife will drink filtered Flint city water for a month. It’s a pointless gesture since the toxic lead levels, experienced during the two years immediately after the city’s cut-over to the Flint River, have already fallen after doing permanent damage to roughly eight thousand children in and around Flint.

Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver said about the governor’s stunt, “[H]e needs to come and stay here for 30 days and live with us and see what it’s like to use bottled or filtered water when you want to cook and when you want to brush your teeth.”

Or get a new mortgage, I would add. The gesture also does nothing for Flint’s property values. Imagine living in Flint, trying to refinance your home to a lower interest rate, telling the bank, “Oh, but the water’s safe enough for the governor!” and the bank telling you, “Nah. Too risky.”

UPDATE — 10:45 AM EDT —
Charges have been filed against City of Flint’s Laboratory & Water Quality Supervisor Mike Glasgow and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Office of Drinking Water and Management Assistance district director Steven Busch and MI-ODWMA District Engineer Michael Prysby. Mlive.com-Flint reports,

Glasgow is accused of tampering with evidence when he allegedly changed testing results to show there was less lead in city water than there actually was. He is also charged with willful neglect of office.

Prysby and Busch are charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, a treatment violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act and a monitoring violation of the Safe Drinking Water.

None of the individuals charged in the case have been arraigned.

Sure would like to see the evidence on Glasgow, given the email he wrote 14-APR-2014 (see the timeline).

House hearing on encryption yesterday

  • Worth the time if you have it to listen to the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee’s hearing, ‘Deciphering the Debate Over Encryption: Industry and Law Enforcement Perspectives‘ to catch Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell and UPenn’s CIS asst. prof. Matt Blaze. Not so much for Indiana State Police Captain Charles Cohen, who was caught up in misinfo/disinfo about Apple’s alleged non-cooperation with the U.S. government. Wish there was a transcript, especially for the part where Sewell was quizzed as to whether Apple would encrypt their cloud.
  • Speaking of Cohen and misinfo/disinfo, Apple said it hasn’t released source code to Chinese (Reuters) — This is the spin IN’s Cohen got caught up in. Nope.

Another Congressional hearing of interest: Fed Cybersecurity
In case you missed it, catch the video of today’s House Oversight Subcommittee on Information Technology hearing on Federal Cybersecurity Detecion, Response, and Mitigation. You may have seen Marcy’s tweets on this hearing, at which Juniper Networks was a no-show, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) was kind of pissed off. Catch Bruce Schneier’s post about Juniper’s vulnerability.

Volkswagen has company: Mitsubishi’s mileage data tweaked to cheat
The Japanese automaker may have to pay back tax rebates offered on vehicles meeting certain fuel efficiency standards. Data from mileage tests on hundreds of thousands of cars was fudged to make the cars look 5-10 percent more efficient.

Speaking of cheating: Volkswagen’s use of code words masked references to emissions controls cheats
The amount of data under review along with the use of code words and phrases like “acoustic software” may delay the completion of the probe’s report. Don’t forget: tomorrow is the second 30-day deadline set for VW to provide a technical solution for owners of its passenger diesel vehicles.

That’s enough. Michigan state AG newser underway now as I update this again at 1:15 p.m. EDT; I may not update here since I addressed known charges above. Catch you on the other side of the hump.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
24 replies
  1. S.Collins says:

    As with Abu Ghraib, underlings get flung under the bus while the seat of power is xushioned with impunity.

  2. harpie says:

    A Flint Water Department Employee? Glasgow or Croft?

    Documents show Flint filed false reports about testing for lead in water; MLive; 11/12/15
    http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2015/11/documents_show_city_filed_fals.html

    “[…] Flint’s rush to find enough water tests to submit to the state is documented in an June 25 email from a DEQ representative to Glasgow, which warned Flint was running out of time to collect required water samples to be tested for lead. […]”

    Definitely NOT the high level decision makers. These people were thrust into terrible situations [not of their own making], and then required to extinguish the resulting conflagration with inadequate information and resources.

    • harpie says:

      That “DEQ official” was Adam Rosenthal. He is mentioned in the Task Force timeline as follows:
      *
      6/17/14 Adam Rosenthal/MDEQ e-mails Mike Glasgow/Flint confirming no orthophosphate monitoring is necessary at Flint WTP, since no orthophosphate is being added
      *
      6/25/15 [TYPO IN REPORT TL-SAYS 2016, though placed correctly at 2015] Rosenthal/MDEQ e-mails Glasgow and Wright/Flint DPW [(copying Mike Prysby and Stephen Busch/MDEQ)-see Finding 44] reminding them that 61 more lead and copper samples need to be collected and sent to the lab by June 30, 2015, “and that they are will be [sic] below the AL [action level] for lead. As of now with 39 results, Flint’s 90th percentile is over the AL for lead.”
      *
      8/17/15 MDEQ notifies Flint of lead/copper monitoring results from Jan-June 2015 monitoring period, and requires City to install corrosion control for LCR compliance. Indicates Flint has 6 months to fully optimize corrosion control, but recommends starting phosphate treatment as soon as possible [Letter to Wright/Flint from Rosenthal/MDEQ included in chronological compilation of MDEQ e-mails from FOIA requests (Roy/Edwards) posted to Flint Water Study website]
      *
      9/2/2015 MDEQ notifies Flint of return to compliance on Disinfection Byproducts (TTHM) [Letter to B. Wright (Flint) from Rosenthal & Prysby (MDEQ)]
      *
      10/16/15 DWSD and City of Flint execute water supply contract, and City of Flint is reconnected to DWSD system [LAN01-#394270-v1-Executed Flint Water Agreement DWSD.PDF, Letter to B. Wright (Flint) from Rosenthal & Prysby (MDEQ), e-mail from MDEQ confirming disinfection testing of transmission main] [MDEQ info: Attachment 53 – MDEQ documentation provided to FWATF Nov. 6, 2015]
      *

  3. Rayne says:

    harpie (9:46) — My money’s on Croft, but who knows? I don’t trust anything coming from Schuette’s office, best at political hackery and definitely not law enforcement.

    I don’t think it’s Glasgow unless it’s a political witch hunt, because of the 14-APR-2014 email and Glasgow’s involvement with discovery of lead levels at LeAnne Walter’s home.

    Should note that the governor’s office withheld that 14-APR-2014 email for some time.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Everything in Michigan seems bent by the behavioral model of big auto, indeed of corporate America, which for Mr. Snyder is the fount of all wisdom. Here, three low-level grunts may be indicted. The governor and others who were directly responsible for the policies these three may have implemented? Nada. If one blinked, one might confuse the Flint/Michigan/USA water quality problem (DC’s is terrible) with say, ignition malfunctions or fraudulent diesel engine software. Of course, the military, too, is renowned for this sort of kiss up, eliminate down culture.

    As for Gov. Snyder’s drinking problem, I would suggest his daily water intake be tested beforehand. It’s as likely to come from a spring in the Auvergne as from the old Flint city system.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    All in the family. It seems VW obtained the emissions cheating s/w from sister company Audi circa 1999. VW admitted last year to using it on at least 11 million VWs, Audis, Porsches, Skodas and Seats.

    The cheating won’t stop or even lessen – at VW or elsewhere in global corporatedom – until the out-of-pocket, present cash value cost of getting caught exceeds by a good margin the profit stream from cheating. American regulators should dig out the hard copy of that ancient wisdom from the basement file cabinet they consigned it to and use it.

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/apr/20/vw-emissions-software-came-from-audi-report

  6. bloopie2 says:

    I suppose everyone saw this: “Mitsubishi Says It Faked Fuel Economy Tests and Its Shares Plunge”. It’s only for minicars sold in Japan, and likely not enough to tank the company. But still. Is EVERYONE crooked? Does the corporate structure help employees to feel that they are insulated from any downside that might arise from dishonesty in their business dealings? Does the governmental structure do the same?

  7. bloopie2 says:

    Just out of curiosity, anyone have a link to an article discussing Hillary’s likely choices/leanings for Supreme court nominees?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Corporate employees follow their leader, whether that leader is talented or a failed yahoo paid tens of millions of dollars to go away and keep their mouths shut. That is why corporate culture – set at the top – is so important. Doubly so at large corporations, where passing through the many culture filters is essential to rising in the management ranks and where changing the culture is about as easy as turning or docking an aircraft carrier. Not following the leader amounts to insubordination, the corporate equivalent of treason. It often results in a firing for cause. That is a death sentence for one’s chances of being hired by another similar employer. Whistleblower protections for those employed by corporate America are weak. Jobs mean paychecks: transportation, rent, mortgage, and food payments; access to almost affordable healthcare; education possibilities for one’s children; and the ability to support the community institutions one favors. Not following the leader is hard stuff; it can make one vulnerable for life.

    Government can’t directly change corporate culture; indeed, it thrives on and tries to emulate it. But government can regulate. Regulations are effective when the costs of cheating on them – by say, dumping Teflon-related chemicals into groundwater, cheating on taxes, fraudulent sales, non-compliance with health and safety rules – are made considerably more expensive in today’s out-of-pocket cash dollars than the profits made by cheating. If government doesn’t do that, corporations will see the government as condoning, even licensing such behavior. They will try to impose that view on courts and legislatures.

    The American government rarely imposes such costs on its corporate patrons, not when those patrons keep so many politicians in office. It will take informed, concerted, sustained efforts to change those circumstances for the better.

  9. by the lakeshore says:

    Accused Flint water plant operator said he got ‘marching orders’ from higher-ups

    Four weeks before he was charged with tampering with evidence tied to the Flint water plant, utilities administrator Michael Glasgow told MLive he was following “marching orders” from supervisors to do whatever was necessary to start using the Flint River.

    When the plant actually started operation with too few employees and equipment upgrades incomplete in April 2014, he said, “I’m thinking, ‘Holy s***. We’re really doing it.’ ”

    http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2016/04/accused_flint_water_plant_oper.html#incart_river_home

  10. harpie says:

    More than likely, imo:

    “emptywheel
    [email protected]
    @RustBeltRebel But it’s possible they want Glasgow to flip. Schuette DID say there’d be more charges.”

  11. Rayne says:

    harpie (3:13) — No idea, but that’s an excellent question. Both of their names appear in this report prepared for Michigan Dept of Treasury about KWA, but there’s no question whatsoever in this report as to whether these two people may be related.

    Same report brings up another question: why the hell was this 2013 report prepared for Treasury and not for Flint’s emergency manager?

    Why does the same report use Saginaw’s water system as a benchmark, but never suggest Saginaw as an alternate source? To the best of my recollection, Saginaw did not lose its water system during the 2003 blackout across the Northeast, which was used as an argument for taking Flint off the Detroit water system.

    In re: (3:01) and @emptywheel tweet on flipping: If Schuette’s office wants Glasgow to flip on anybody, they sure aren’t very persuasive.

    • harpie says:

      Hi Rayne: This is what TYJT had to say about why the Treasurer commissioned the report:
      *
      “[…] The State Treasurer has appointed an emergency financial manager for the City of Flint. As such the Treasurer has requested TYJT to provide an analysis of the water supply options to assist the Treasurer in determining any potential risk and the best course going forward for supplying potable water to the City of Flint. […]”
      *
      I think it’s mainly a financial analysis of the options [KWA vs. various DWSD offers]. A new source would require a whole new set of feasibility studies, I guess.

      That report found several issues [one having to do with the lack of electrical redundancy in the pump stations which it called a “major risk”] with the KWA proposal, and was therefor roundly shot down by Rowe, [who was involved in the KWA construction] and then thoroughly ignored by Kurtz, Wright [Walling?] etal.
      *
      http://www.metrotimes.com/Blogs/archives/2016/02/13/emails-reveal-flint-should-never-have-joined-kwa-andnbspit-was-never-about-saving-money
      *
      Uggh. I’m tired. Good night. :-{
      *

      • wayoutwest says:

        Your link to the MT polemic/opinion piece is a bit dated but it shows Team Detroit is not taking their defeat well. Their monopoly control of Flint’s water supply allowed them to extort and extract money from that already devastated city and now that that control is ended they are projecting their sour grapes loser smears.

        It’s strange but also telling that this polemic warns that Flint only has shared control of the new KWA system, as if having absolutely no control under the DWSD monopoly is the preferred option for anyone but Detroit. The teaser rates, Hail Mary offer of half price water to keep Flint’s water supply under their control just shows how extreme that extortion was. The inclusion of the feared deadly ‘Fracking’ hobgoblin, in this fable, was quite lame, especially coming from the Motor City and I think the KWA is mandated to seek out and sell ‘water’ to all paying customers.

  12. Rayne says:

    lefty665 (1:19) — I am reposting your comment from the Comments And Tips page. Please treat posts tagged with ‘2016 AM roundup’ as open threads, thanks.

    Hey Rayne, Here’s another link on Zika It goes back to an article in the journal “Cell Host & Microbe” here .
    .
    Looks like currently there’s no DNA match found between Zika in mosquitoes and people. Doesn’t mean Zika’s not a bad actor or that a match won’t be found, just that we ain’t there yet. Also observations that Zika is a quick mutator as a reason why that since identified in 1947 it hasn’t been causing severe problems until the last couple of years.
    .
    Still puts the NIH/CDC releases in the “raise the profile and get people socialized to dealing with Zika” category rather than confirmed science. That’s probably a good thing. Waiting until after the fact on a fast mutating virus with multiple and perhaps evolving methods of transmission gives Zika a big head start. What if the common vector turns out to be something other than mosquitoes after we get everybody all jacked up?

    I swear you and I do not read the same things in reports, at all. I didn’t see any thing in that underlying report at Cell.com to suggest the NIH/CDC are wrong. If anything, the report suggests not only that Zika mutates easily and quickly, but that a different vector of transmission is more likely with the Asian branch of Zika than with the African branch.

    The report specifically says,

    … Alternatively, it is possible that other routes of transmission, such as sexual transmission, may have a greater contribution to the wide spread of ZIKV in the Americas. Intriguingly, it was recently reported that New World strains of Aedes aegypti and albopictus are poor transmitters of ZIKV (Chouin-Carneiro et al., 2016). Clearly, more studies are urgently needed on natural vector transmission of ZIKV in Asia and the Americas, as well as the possibility of a more prominent contribution of alternative modes of transmission.

    Yeah. Sexual transmission. Which may be why the DNA hasn’t matched between a Zika patient and mosquitoes nearby — they didn’t check humans as vectors.

    The study also showed (12) strains isolated in Brazil alone (see the embedded chart), which is a huge number compared to the African lineage. That’s mind-boggling given how long the virus has been present in Brazil compared to African continent. Definitely suggests different vectors at work, ones that enhance mutation’s speed.

    Among those vectors within sexual transmission, human male-to-male transmission has already been documented in the U.S. — see this report. Same report also makes note of (5) other male-to-female/female-to-male cases documented in the U.S. as well. There may be more sexually transmitted cases still being evaluated and confirmed given the number of reports reflecting even higher numbers. With that many sexually transmitted cases in the U.S. already compared to — what, maybe ONE case by mosquito in U.S. — an entirely new set of problems has emerged, none of which change the relationship between Zika and microcephaly in Brazil.

  13. wayoutwest says:

    It’s good to see the first real serious charges in the Flint water crisis and it’s not surprising the most serious are from the conspiracy and attempt to cover their tracks, the stupid and dangerous decision to not treat the Flint River water was just a misdemeanor. I’m sure these clowns will be singing to anyone who will listen, that they were just pawns, but we’ll have to wait to see if they have any proof beyond confusing emails and bold statements.

    The partisans won’t be satisfied with this beginning of the legal fact-finding because they smelled political blood in this water along with the lead and rust in Flint and destroying the hated and powerful Repugs seems to be more important than justice for those people poisoned in Flint by their own water managers and the state / federal regulators.

    The failures to act in a timely manner after the lead exposure was discovered might produce some charges but indecision and incompetence in government , during crisis, seems to be the norm and prosecuting this condition may be difficult.

  14. Evangelista says:

    Rayne,

    Your poet guy, Coleridge, must be a government guy, or political scientist, maybe, since he makes water to make boards to shrink instead of swell. It’s the way the government guys and political scientists do to make their rhymes ring right like they want them to, instead of right like reality.

    Though, there is a possibility, I suppose, that if you put a wooden boat into Flint water it might shrink; like, “Ooooh, what is THIS stuff?!?” and then tippy-toe back onto the trailer…

    What it’s possible Mitsubishi did to “cheat” its mileage tests might be similar to what Ford did some time back, which was to simply use real gasoline for the tests, instead of the “environmentally doctored” stuff you and I buy at the pump (or siphon from our neighbor’s truck).

    And we can’t blame VW for playing the “changing-the-name-to-make-it-all-better” game too much, since it is the basis for so much of the most common “solutions” nowadays: Just change the vocabulary, and then maybe the defining criteria and divert discussion into non-analogous tangential pseudo-analogues, and voila, you have a new frame you can paint anything you want to in. Thus, you can have forests being “carbon storage units” (trees being, apparently, some kind of organic CO2 tanks), and “carbon credits” being atmospherically cleansing, instead of only financial trade, units, and you can count benefits in “job-years” to enhance impressiveness of results (California does this for its ten years of carbon-credit trading experiment, assigning the program to have created “15,000 job-years”, instead of 1500 jobs in its ten years [which jobs have cost California utility customers billions, the poorest still able to afford utilities paying about $60 more, unless they have to borrow from payday lenders, when the $60 goes to $600]).

    So, what would VW’s “acoustic software” be a logical euphemism for? What would it likely reference in a real reality context? My guess is “bullshit that sounds good”, or, in context, “a program of bullshit code that looks impressive and runs smoothly doing nothing”. Or, in government regulatory context, since government regulation seems to be running these days, on the premise that “if you promulgate it (a regulation, standard, requirement, etc.) they (the industry engineers) will find a way to meet it.”, “a program of Rube Goldberg code that should satisfy the ‘reggies’ while doing no significant harm”. [Remember: If anyone really cared at all about the actual environment they would never allow bureaucrats to be in charge of it.]

  15. Rayne says:

    harpie (6:36) — Doesn’t that entire scenario where TYJT is contracted by Treasury look more like the decision *isn’t* in Flint? Thanks for all the hussle, it’s much appreciated.

    evangelista (8:39) — Coleridge is not “my poet guy.” Pretty sure most educated folks outside the U.S. would recognize Samuel Taylor Coleridge as an English poet, co-founder of the Romantic Movement along with William Wordsworth. Instead of talking smack about Romantic poetry and conflating it with political bullshit or outright corporate disinformation, perhaps you should slow your roll and actually read the entire poem.

    • Evangelista says:

      ” Instead of talking smack about Romantic poetry and conflating it with political bullshit or outright corporate disinformation, perhaps you should slow your roll and actually read the entire poem.”

      Can’t I do both?

      S.T.C. did, after all, scriv a blooper in his “Ancient Mariner”. And what’ s the harm? None to him, since it has proved no albatross to his reputation.

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