FACHEP vs. The People of the State of Michigan: Part VII Love The Alarmist — The Real Story on Shigella and Water Filters

(August 12th, 2016 to December 2nd, 2016)

 

FACHEP: A “KEYSTONE COPs” TRAGICOMEDY

In Part 4, we revealed how Dr. Nancy Love (UM) sampled some Flint point of use (POU) filters in late July 2016, thought she discovered Shigella, and then unleashed an irresponsible hypothesis that the disease was coming from Flint water via Dr. Laura Sullivan (Kettering) on social media. This week, we detail how FACHEP allowed their Shigella rumor to run wild in Flint for 4 months, before they stopped promoting that fearmongering falsehood in favor of a new one.

The term “Keystone Cops” appropriately describes the uncanny antics of FACHEP leadership in 2016-2017. They were destined to exert an “uncommon amount of energy in the pursuit of failure” on the POU water filter issue, while wearing the requisite “facial expressions of dour dignity.” The “Cops” label also works because they carried themselves as if they had actually been deputized by some higher authority, perhaps even by Governor Snyder in some secret ceremony, and maybe even provided with a license to cast wild aspersions about every other entity involved in the relief effort. Or was that just Dr. McElmurry hand selecting likeminded individuals who shared some sort of messiah complex?

FACHEP RUMOR MONGERING IN ACTION: CASE STUDY 1

We pick up our story (from Part 4) one day after Dr. Sullivan posted  instructions from WSU/UM to “boil water before bathing,” on social media due to fears that Shigella was coming from water. Sullivan’s friend Dr. Larry Reynolds wrote on July 23, 2016 that the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) did not support that hypothesis: “The GC Health Department’s epidemiologist put out a report that they had tested water across the city and county and could not find any correlation with city water.” A dispute was in the making.

We now know that the incidence of Shigellosis was dropping markedly throughout the month of July and that data was reported by Suzanne Cupal (GCHD) during an August 9, 2016 GCHD board meeting (see Figure below). We also want to remind readers that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) later demonstrated that the Shigellosis was likely spread via typical hand to hand contact, and not via drinking water.

Shigellosis cases in Genesee Co. where Flint is located (data courtesy: MDHHS)

The GCHD “good news” for Flint residents was viewed as “bad news” for FACHEP. FACHEP mobilized, to make sure that mere facts would not undermine their baseless claims, or otherwise put a lid on their bubbling desire to scream  “boil your water” from Flint’s rooftops.

On August 22, 2016 at 11:28 am, Dr. McElmurry crafted an email to Ms. Cupal (GCHD), incorrectly claiming the Shigella “outbreak appears to have accelerated.” Just 9 minutes after that email, McElmurry then wrote an underhanded “HIGH” importance email to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver (cc’ing FACHEP faculty but leaving off all GCHD personnel), with a false claim that an “increase in the number of cases and rate of Shigellosis that has been observed.” In that email to Mayor Weaver, McElmurry also said that Ms. Cupal was wrong to report that the number of Shigella cases was in decline (again see Figure above). 

Like a well-oiled propaganda machine, Dr. Sullivan (FACHEP’s Designated Trust-builder) then went on social media and stated:

August 22, 2016: … shigellosis confirmed but source not identified by health department. Update on public health: wash hands with antibacterial soap, turn up the temperature on your water heater, drink filtered water ONLY if you are certain that bacteria are removed.

Sullivan’s posting, reinforced FACHEP’s self-serving but false narrative that Dr. Cupal and GCHD were incompetent, Shigella was coming from Flint water, and that the filtered water could not be trusted. Taking Sullivan’s advice literally would require boiling (or some other treatment) of filtered water before drinking. Or, just use bottled water for everything to avoid all of the fear and hassle. Indeed, many Flint residents were literally bathing in bottled water, or even bathing in boiled bottled water.  

FACHEP then continued their campaign to undermine GCHD, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and CDC’s scientifically sound public health messaging on Shigella.  In a “HIGH” importance email to Dr. Larry Reynolds, sent August 26th at 3:47 pm, McElmurry repeated his assertion that Ms. Cupal and GCHD were incompetent, and the false claim that the Shigella incidence was not declining. Just 3 minutes later, Dr. Zervos just happened to email and reinforce that message to Reynolds, writing that GCHD’s Shigella investigation was inadequate and “left many unanswered questions.” At least as far as the Keystone Cops were concerned.

Still not getting the traction they desired, Dr. Kilgore sent an email to FACHEP faculty on August 31st 2016, indicating that the Shigellosis outbreak was “water related to an important extent” and “there is great urgency to improve the public health response.” Kigore did note a potential problem.  Specifically, FACHEP was only funded to study Legionella by MDHHS, but he argued that this work on Legionella should allow them to also meddle in “other potentially water-related diseases like Shigellosis.”

Drs. LOVE and MCELMURRY make some house-calls

The High Priests of Waterborne Disease. In late August, Flint residents were getting their first house-calls from Drs. Love and McElmurry on their NSF POU filter project. Dr. Edwards was in Flint, conducting late night sampling events while sleeping on LeeAnne Walters sofa, when he received an urgent phone call from his distraught Flint friend Ms. Keri Webber.

Love and McElmurry had come to her doorstep and channeled their best “Exorcist” entry, to break very “bad news” about her water bacteria-possessed home. Webber drove to meet Edwards, still shaking with fear and her voice cracking as she related the conversation, the gist of which was also posted on social media that evening:

“I really felt I needed to share this information with Flint residents using the tap filters for lead…..The scariest thing is that the amount of bacteria LEAVING our filter is astronomical. ..we all have to make our own decisions on rather to drink from the Filters or not. As most know we ARE NOT drinking from the filter….thank GOD! We continue to use only bottled water for everything!”

As the Webbers recall their dining room conversation, Love and McElmurry stated that “they had never seen such high levels of bacteria” and ominously warned them to “never drink water coming from the filter, or bath in their water, without boiling it first.” Yikes!

In an apparent attempt to comfort Webber with humor, McElmurry verbally suggested that “the State of Michigan should purchase their home for $250,000,” because the horrible bacteria problems would make it an ideal laboratory for studying the Flint disaster aftermath. The Webbers’ home is lovely, but like many homes in Flint, it has a depressed market value of just $10,000, making the imaginary offer 25X over the asking price very attractive–especially considering the frightening news just delivered.  This report is consistent with that of another Flint resident visited by McElmurry in 2016, who literally abandoned her home due to bacteria fears.

Dr. Love further opined that Mr. Webber’s horrible skin infections could be coming from the Staph bacteria they found in the water and that WSU/UM would report those results soon. Over the next 7 months, Ms. Webber repeatedly requested the Staph data. She was thrice promised the results by Dr. Love and thrice did not receive them. When she finally complained on social media around June 14, 2017,  a FACHEP member eventually hand-delivered her a hard copy. The FACHEP letter did not mention Staph, but only that there were undetectable levels of Shigella

At the time, Edwards attempted to explain to his Flint friend, that contrary to what she had been told, the levels of bacteria measured from her POU filters by Dr. Love were perfectly normal based on his decades of experience. He refrained from telling her that Love and McElmurry were so new to drinking water research, he had doubts they even knew what “normal” was for POU filters installed in tens of millions of U.S. homes. After all, Dr. Love did not even know POU filters were in such widespread use, until she revealed her ignorance on that subject in a phone call with Edwards in January 2017 as mentioned in Part 4.

Realizing that his worst fears about Dr. Love were once again coming true, Edwards delegated an impossible task of trying to reason with Love to his diplomatic colleague Dr. Amy Pruden. Pruden is one of the foremost researchers in the world on building plumbing drinking water microbiology, published numerous papers on the topic, and was Principal Investigator on over a dozen major projects with Dr. Edwards researching waterborne pathogens in building plumbing and is also co-PI of the FlintWaterStudy (now, U.S. Water Study) team.

Pruden tried to gently inform Dr. Love and McElmurry that “all water contains some normal level of bacteria and that there is no known health risk” from the types of bacteria discovered in Webber’s water. Moreover, that “these are pretty typical levels <of bacteria>” for building plumbing.  Pruden further stated that it is “important to keep in mind people use the point of use filters for drinking and cooking, not for showering- so it’s definitely not going to explain <Staph> rashes….”

When Pruden and Love spoke later at an international conference, Dr. Love declared she was strongly committed to careful and responsible communication about the POU water filters in Flint. But while placating Dr. Pruden, Dr. Love was quietly making grand plans behind the scenes.

YOU CAN’T HANDLE DR. LOVE’S “TRUTHS”

In emails September 25 and 27, 2016 to colleagues McElmurry and Masten, Dr. Love expressed a desire to keep Dr. Pruden at arm’s length as she obtained more data on Shigella and developed her personal manifesto related to POU filter use in Flint. Love’s illogical analysis was heavily based on her ignorance of basic potable water science and false assumptions about of filter deployment in Flint, yet her newly formulated recommendation was to eventually be cast in concrete:

” … I think it is best to take filtered water, boil it, and then refrigerate for drinking.  This provides **two** barriers (more in concert with our gold standard of multiple barriers) … It is what I am starting to do in my own house in Ann Arbor… and I cannot in good conscience recommend otherwise to the citizens of Flint, especially given the average health condition of its citizens.

It is truly unfortunate that Dr. Love never had a chance to learn basic principles of Sloan MoBE 101, because she had literally scared herself via DNA analysis of Ann Arbor POU filters, to the point that she was actually boiling potable water for her own family. That is perfectly fine, because as we say, to each their own. Millions of Americans make such personal choices every day to either boil their water, purchase bottled water, use filters of many different designs, or even expose themselves to “raw” water.

Yet Dr. Love would soon become dead set on applying her newly minted “gold standard” to all of Flint, and inexplicably, only to Flint. At one level, this was merely formalizing Dr. Sullivan’s “insider” FACHEP “boil water” recommendations already posted on Facebook and Dr. Love’s warnings to residents like Keri Webber. The emails further reveal that because Dr. Pruden would be incapable of handling Dr. Love’s ideas on filter messaging, she would be put in limbo until Dr. Love’s “interesting but incompletely analyzed” data on Shigella was processed — at that time Pruden could be dazzled by Love’s brilliance after the Mayor, GCHD, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), MDHHS and CDC were informed first (see 9/25 to 9/27/2016 emails at the end).

But as we will eventually see, not one of those entities would be able to handle Dr. Love’s illogical “truths” either. And so it was henceforth destined, that Dr. Love would be pitted against the entire relief effort on the POU water filter issue, supported only by FACHEP sycophants. Moreover, in her supreme arrogance, Dr. Love was going to hopelessly outnumber and outvote everyone, and take her “gold standard” public one way or another.   

AGENCIES CORRECT A RUMOR — A FACHEP CRYBULLY COUNTERATTACK

GCHD, MDHHS and CDC were rightly confident in their science, public health messaging and data that Shigella cases were finally in decline, but in early October they could not have yet known about the extent of FACHEP rumormongering. They were about to get a hint.

Just 3 days after Dr. Love laid out her manifesto to deal with alleged dangers of the POU filters and bathing in Flint water, national reporters like Pulitzer Prize-winning Sara Ganim were writing Dr. Edwards that “I’m working on something about a Shigella outbreak in Flint, and that people are not washing their hands…  I’m being told that people in Flint are scared of using hot water..” Obviously, FACHEP was successful in getting their story out.

A concerted effort was then made to correct the rumors and push a “wash your hands campaign,” which rolled out via national stories on CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times on October 4, 2016. A typical Shigella control message was that:

‘People aren’t bathing because they’re scared,’ Jim Henry, Genesee County’s environmental health supervisor, told CNN. ‘Some people have mentioned that they’re not going to expose their children to the water again.‘…but the health agencies were “urging residents to wash their hands.”

Immediately after reading this national Shigella news, Dr. Love wrote about a “weekend chat” with Dr. Sullivan about communicating the FACHEP results.  FACHEP (Dr. Sullivan) and friend (Melissa Mays) then mounted the following, masterful crybully counterattack against the agency public health messaging.


Melissa Mays was feeling fed up.  October 4, 2016 · 

I think I’m going to start a little series called “Blaming the Victims: The Lies our County, State and Federal Government Tell about Flint.” 
Episode 1: “LIE: Flint is full of dumb and dirty people who get sick because they’re not bathing and washing their hands.” 
Shame on you people for saying garbage like that just to try to throw off the fact that the bacteria in our water is making us sick…. I’m ready to turn those shaming tables back around on you. #ItsYourTurnNow

Dr. Laura Sullivan: October 5, 2016

From the, “How to exploit the poor and get good press” playbook:
Tell everyone that the poor are getting sick because they don’t wash their hands.

William Hammond:

And washing hands is not helpful? October 6, 2016 at 3:09am

Dr. Laura Sullivan

(did not answer Hammond’s question about handwashing)

Michael Schock (USEPA):

There’s no evidence that I or my microbiologist specialists colleagues have seen that it’s transmitted by organisms in tap water. Using even less water for washing and bathing is the worst thing they can do.  October 7, 2016 at 6:32pm

The agencies were dumbfounded that standardized messaging about the importance of handwashing, considered acceptable everywhere else in the America, would provoke such a response. However, they were also unaware of how the outrage was actually being manufactured by FACHEP and friends behind the scenes to support their alternative facts communications plan. In future emails, Dr. Seeger (WSU communications expert) would not hesitate to remind the agencies how insensitive they had been to residents, and gullible environmental justice faculty were later duped into writing historical accounts claiming: “the public authorities’ (and media’s) fixation on people’s personal habits… frustrated and shamed Flint residents” [all referencing self-serving FACHEP and Friends Facebook propaganda].

On October 4th Dr. Love also prepared to reveal her “truth” to the public health authorities in a scheduled conference call October 6th. Specifically, she would inform them of her new crusade: that drinking Flint water passing through a POU lead filter without boiling it first was dangerous. Never mind that public health agencies would then have to start contradicting a year of prior advice in Flint, or 14 years of prior advice given to the world. There was one slight impediment to her plan: Dr. Love still did not have any credible data to support her earth shattering conclusion. In an email to McElmurry and Masten she noted that:

“We do not have qPCR results for specific pathogenic species yet… I have given ..<a>.. Oct 14 deadline for first cut results on all samples..We definitely have genera that contain opportunistic pathogens at all houses, but that is the same as we would find in almost every city in America.” 

Let us repeat for emphasis. On October 4th, 2016, Dr. Love did not have a shred of evidence, that bacteria found in Flint homes, were any more dangerous than homes in almost every city in America. Yet because her mind was clearly made up that her new gold standard “boil water” advisory would have to be applied in Flint, without regard to what future data would actually show, she was going to work on a “a communication piece tonight based on a conversation I had with Laura Sullivan.”

OCTOBER 6 CONFERENCE CALL: A WEEK OF PURE FACHEP CHAOS

Chaos ensued after Dr. Love unveiled her POU filter manifesto during a heated October 6th FACHEP conference call with Dr. Wells and others. It also appears that Dr. Wells finally realized that FACHEP was behind some of the harmful rumors circulating about Shigella and bathing fears in Flint.

With just 30-45 minutes notice, Dr. Wells arranged an emergency meeting with some of the world’s foremost experts at the CDC, who dropped everything for a FACHEP “Shigella and Filters Call, Local/State/Federal Partners.” After the Shigella experts at CDC listened to the WSU/UM filter study results, the talking points of the call revealed they were underwhelmed by Dr. Love’s “preliminary” evidence about supposed bacteria dangers in Flint and also would not support anything like a “boil water” advisory. CDC politely dismissed Love’s pathetic waterborne disease sleuthing as an alarmist amateur read of completely normal data.

But Dr. Love and FACHEP were completely unfazed and undeterred. Over the next week there were literally hundred and hundreds of pages of back and forth emails, pitting Dr. Love as a potable waterborne disease expert imposter versus the real expertise of the agencies. We tried to distill it all down to “only” 105 chaotic pages for interested Flintwaterstudy readers and historians in a PDF. Herein, we will superficially detail two areas of contention: FACHEP Rumors and Incompetence-Secrecy.

It is FACHEP’s Rumor, But It is Your Problem. On October 7th and 8th, Dr. Wells made it clear that FACHEP needed to correct their rumors that Shigella was likely to be coming from the POU filters or Flint water. She wrote that we need to get an extremely timely message out to the public due to the fact that the WSU/UM study findings somehow got into the community without context.” FACHEP faculty McElmurry and Seeger initially agreed that this was important, and even explained to Dr. Sullivan on October 9th that “based on the craziness that has transpired over the last few days we think it’s important to get a message out about the filter study.”

The initial press release drafts honestly stated that FACHEP had no evidence that Shigella was coming from the filters or water, but as discussions progressed, it was realized that being truthful would expose them as rumormongers and cost them credibility with Flint residents who had believed them. Dr. Sullivan then proposed a cowards path out, arguing that the press release should not mention Shigella at all!  She wrote to FACHEP:  

 “The residents will ask themselves why you are noting that no Shigella has been found. They’d expect the state to point this out. Not you. ..Let the state point these things out.  Or the CDC. Or the county. Trust in these groups has already been lost. If you or Shawn make a statement that sounds as though you think it’s unlikely that there is a problem, I fear the residents will file your credibility with Marc Edwards.”

The latter point alludes to yet another successful FACHEP rumormongering campaign against Dr. Edwards that will be addressed in a future blog. 

To his credit, McElmurry initially resisted Dr. Sullivan, writing  “I think we would all like to wait another week or two until our results are complete before making any statements. Unfortunately we do not have that luxury. MDSS, GCHD , and CDC are hell bent on pushing out a message that addresses the filters.” He further suggested “stronger language about how incomplete our analysis is and that we continue to look for possible pathogens.

But in the end Dr. Sullivan won out, and FACHEP published the completely pointless press release that did not mention Shigella at all.  McElmurry later explained to GCHD that we were uncertain that there was a risk to warrant additional recommendation <such as boiling water>…it’s just to early in the scientific process to tell.”

FACHEP successfully maintained Flint resident trust at the expense of speaking truth. This was merely the start of what was to become a pattern:  FACHEP’s rumor, your problem. A side benefit of sabotaging the press release was that Sullivan could keep telling her urban legend story about getting Shigella from contaminated water.

Incompetence/Secrecy. Even as FACHEP shamelessly refused to correct their rumors about Shigella, their emails dripped with condescension and accusations of incompetence. Here are some examples from October 7th.

Example 1: Dr. Zervos casts aspersions about CDC incompetence, revealing his own.

Dr. Zervos to Wells: 4:09 pm. I don’t agree with many parts of this <CDC written summary on Shigella outbreak after emergency October 6th phone call>

Dr. Wells to Zervos: 4:27 pm. <A>re you saying you think you have epidemiologic information that states that this is not a typical Shigella outbreak?

Dr. Zervos to Wells: 4:41 pm. I don’t have any information myself, other than <that shared by GCHD>….and the filter studies of Nancy Love….  

Dr. Wells to Zervos: 5:11 pm. Basically you just stated that Michael Beach and Vince Hill and their teams at CDC are not valid SME’s.

Dr. Zervos to Wells: 5:52 pm.  I guess I did.

Dr. Wells to Zervos: 5:59 pm. Sorry you feel that way—particularly if you say that and you don’t know them or of them.

Dr. Zervos to Wells: 7:23 pm. whats a sme<?>….

Dr. Wells to Zervos: 8:09 pm. …an SME is a subject matter expert. And these guys are the nation’s best, from CDC, on Shigella and waterborne disease.

Example 2: Dr. Zervos wearing his “independent review” deputy badge, casting aspersions about POU filters and secrecy

Dr. Zervos to Wells: 5:51, 7:23 pm. falsely claimed that the POU “filters are not intended for their current use in relation to bacteria,” and that  “I don’t know why there is so much secrecy about this <shigella>. the reason there is lack of trust in community is related to many factors including not allowing independent review.

Dr. Wells to Zervos: 8:09 pm. “I’m a bit confused as why you think there is secrecy when you could just give me or our Bureau or Suzanne a call and we would’ve shared any Shigella data with you.”

Ms. Cupal (GCHD) 9:49 pm. “to imply secrecy of any kind when a request has not been made is also inappropriate.  Too many assumptions are being made. That does not promote trust. GCHD, MDHHS and subject matter experts from the CDC have analyzed the data.”

McElmurry at 11:47 pm then privately emails Dr. Reynolds to badmouth GCHD yet again: “I wanted you to be aware of the continued BS we get from Suzanne and GCHD. Mark Zervos is really discouraged.[Aside: There is no record McElmurry ever acknowledged FACHEP was wrong about Shigella and Cupal was right]

Example 3: Alleged CDC incompetence.

In an October 8th email, Dr. Love, again posing as a drinking water disease expert, claimed CDC has an “apparent misunderstanding about how PoU filters function.” In a future phone call, Love planned to school CDC waterborne disease experts on the subject of “microbiology and how growth occurs.  Seems like the CDC and others will benefit from such a tutorial.”

Dr. LOVE schools the CDC

Sometime after Dr. Love’s October 14th deadline for her students to actually get the first pathogen qPCR DNA data, for some reason her confidence briefly waned. She wrote a responsible and thoughtful email to CDC, asking for assistance in interpreting her possible Shigella data. Reading the email, we get a sense that Dr. Love, for one brief moment, might have realized the harm from her prior data leaking, and perhaps even considered how her reputation would be damaged if her irresponsible actions ever become public. It was in this October 20 email that we find Dr. Love’s first mention of  Enterobacteriaceae– a family of bacteria that contains both harmless and harmful members—in some drinking water samples.

After the meeting between CDC and Dr. Love, CDC Subject Matter Expert (SME) Vince Hill wrote Dr. Love a polite email offering to assist with Shigella communications. Whatever transpired, by the next day Dr. Love was in a reboot mode. Her initial false alarm that was triggered based on alleged dangers of POU filters from  “possible” detection of Shigella and E. Coli had been abandoned. The team would be “holding on any reporting of results until we have completed all analyses, including Enterobacteriaceae….I have been reading more about the Enterobacteriaceae tonight and believe this is a very important part of the story.”

And just like that, after a night of reading, Dr. Love had a new bogeybacteria to fearmonger Flint residents with.  Enterobacteriaceae would henceforth replace Shigella, E. coli and all other pathogens as the nebulous danger lurking in Dr. Love’s Flint “story.”

FACHEP FIREDRILL:  HERE WE GO! Whoops, it was “ALARMIST CRAP”

By noon November 15th, 2016, Dr. Love was once again feeling confident about going public with a press release on her NSF POU filter study results. Dr. Love signed off her email to FACHEP faculty with an excited “Here we go!”

Within 30 minutes the press release had been forwarded to the City of Flint, GCHD, MDHHS and CDC, with a statement that the WSU/UM NSF POU team would have complete control over what to say and when, but that FACHEP’s “partners” could give input. GCHD immediately forwarded the press release to EPA, where Mark Durno (EPA) thoughtfully lamented “I am concerned about the over-emphasis on the bacterial results and how it may be perceived—especially if these are common findings.” There were many other emails expressing concern, but widespread resignation that Dr. Love and FACHEP were committed to do whatever they wanted, and nothing could stop them.

But this was to be yet another pointless FACHEP FIREDRILL.  By 8:23 pm Dr. Love sent an email to the public health partners, stating any press release would have to wait until after the Thanksgiving Holiday. She then wrote McElmurry, some very unkind comments about her UM colleagues that we have redacted in our attachments because they are not relevant to this story. However, she did note comments about one colleague, that “the <news release> document she sent back out to us today had serious inaccuracies in it that she made up, and, frankly, felt like she was targeting alarmism.” It “was, frankly, crap.”

By November 19th, 2016, there was some good news for Flint residents, but that was once again considered bad news for FACHEP. The CDC Shigella investigation, started in response to the FACHEP chaos of early October, was finally wrapping up.  The outbreak had all the characteristics of Shigella transmitted from person to person, and no characteristics of an outbreak associated with Shigella coming from water. For those keeping score at home:  The public health agencies were right, FACHEP was wrong.  But there is no evidence that McElmurry or FACHEP ever apologized or corrected the record.

DR. LOVE THE ETHICIST

We previously provided a recording from a late October 2016 conference call, where mystified MDHHS employees discussed Dr. Love’s twisted proclamations about the “engineering code of ethics.” Obviously, even more concerns about Love’s irresponsible behavior started circulating in the wake of the incidents reported herein.

And Dr. Love fought back with her code of ethics.  For example, in early December, Dr. Love got wind that a CDC employee had mentioned aspects of Love’s embarrassing “discovery” of Shigella in Flint. Dr. Love wrote a blistering email about the “incident” to CDC, stating:

Over the last few months, I have been surprised at the number of times people in government and outside of my research team have talked about our data or results surrounding our Flint studies in an inaccurate or inappropriate way. It has been more than frustrating and, frankly, disappointing to see how many times we’ve had to deal with such breeches. I believe Federal agencies like the CDC have ethics policies in place to prevent such incidents and I suggest you review them with your staff.

Here, we see Dr. Love expressing outrage about the supposed ethical failings of others, even as she is blind to her own irresponsible and harmful behavior. Seriously, which is worse? A young professional sharing Dr. Love’s mistakes and fearmongering, so that others could learn from them and be forewarned? Or the true danger of FACHEP’s false messaging which harmed Flint residents, damaged reputations of agency employees, created chaos with the Flint disaster response, and denigrated the humanitarian filter donations of Michigan taxpayers– not to mention the logical extension to taxpayer supported bathing in bottled water.

And this week we received yet another reminder of just how important this blog series is. It was announced that Dr. Love has now been selected for the prestigious 2019 American Academy of Environmental Engineering and Scientists (AAEES) Kappe Lectureship and will soon be touring the country, delivering her unique perspectives on the engineering code of ethics. In one presentation she has selected the topic of “Environmental Engineering and Science Academic Scholarship in Service to Society: Our Role and Responsibility.” In that presentation Dr. Love will be discussing case studies “…ensuring our work in communities is done in a manner that is respectful, mutually beneficial and does harm to none.”  

Based on the facts laid out in our blog series so far, and her pattern of behavior, we can only venture to guess what these case studies will be. Here are a few possibilities that come to mind:

  1. How I Exposed the Great 2016 Flint Waterborne Shigella Outbreak That Never Was
  2. Anyone Can Be a Waterborne Disease Expert SME. What’s an SME?
  3. Engineers Shall Perform Services Only in Areas of Their Competence
    -Co-presented with my ethical soulmate Dr. Shawn McElmurry
  4. How to Crybully a Felony Case: The State of Michigan vs. Dr. Eden Wells
  5. Fearmongering with Crap and Alarmist Data- Or Even No Data at All
  6. Foreshadowing the Next Blog: BOIL WATER-DANGEROUS BACTERIA!

Supporting evidence:

Primary author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards

8 thoughts on “FACHEP vs. The People of the State of Michigan: Part VII Love The Alarmist — The Real Story on Shigella and Water Filters

  1. FACHEP’s behavior reminds me of that old adage that to a Hollywood B-list actor any publicity is good publicity.

    The Sad and Unethical part of the story is the likely generational damage that the described actions will likely bestow on the people of Flint. Causing them to change their water use practices, perhaps passing that down to their children and grandchildren, because folks came to town and told them tap water wasn’t safe for other reasons. Perhaps making them psychologically dependent on bottled water into perpetuity.

    Anyone with quality microbiology training knows that the human gut (pH ~1.5-3.5) is evolved to deal effectively with ingestion of relatively wide varieties of microbes. Kudos to Dr Prudhoe for trying to explain that. Seems it should be illegal for seemingly unqualified people to go into a community gripped with fear and provide misinformation, particularly if it relates to pathogens.

    It’s downright painful to read McElmurrys apparent wrestling with the question of “dead” DNA. And what is the purpose of quipping that perhaps the State of Michigan should be purchasing citizens homes from them? Simply trying to stoke up more fear and resentment against the government?

    Yet somehow this behavior is rewarded and some of these same actors end up on the lecture circuit (even if with other people’s slides) and receive awards. Worse than B-list actors it’s also bad movie, however, one that the public needs to see. Thank you Marc, for sharing it.

    • This is indeed painful. Perhaps this is a teachable moment, but like you, we are starting to wonder: What are the real lessons learned here?

      What if the real lesson, is that lying, cheating, crappy and/or alarmist science pays off in modern academia?

      We did not stand by when science agencies did that in 2001-2013 in DC, or 2014-2015 in Flint.

      We did not stand by when Mr. Smith made some mistakes in Flint. Yet we do point out that he apologized, and his transgressions are minor compared to what we are revealing herein.

      We will not stand and let University faculty get away with such behavior unchallenged, in Flint 2016-present. And the worst is still forthcoming.

  2. Hi Marc: a couple of questions arose as I was wading through some of the mind-numbingly boring e-mails of these ‘Investigators’ discussing their extensive travel and vacation plans superimposed on the Legionella and POU filter ‘crisis’.

    1. The 11/15/16 e-mail from Sedgewick to Love puzzles me. Where McElmurry offers to “reach out” to Kerri Webber who he seems concerned will “publicize” her letter. Why would there be concerns about a resident publicizing negative test results?? What does this mean in the context of their ‘media campaign’? Seems the negative test results should (appropriately) put the community more at ease so would be positive rather than troubling to him.

    2. Why was Love ‘developing primers’ therefore using (presumably unpublished) techniques conducted by a graduate student to test for established pathogens where there are certainly established methods? It seems she was then going to CDC seeking validation of her approaches. This would give me ZERO confidence in any results she presented to me as a homeowner.

    3. Finally, if there was a pathogen ‘outbreak’, eg. Shigellosis then why the seemingly endless delays in producing definitive lab testing results, releasing timely reports to residents, and seeming indecisivenes on the media releases/press events? It seems like exactly the opposite of those are needed in a true public health situation.

    I could probably think of other questions, however, it was mind-numbingly convoluted reading their e-mails. Except I somewhat enjoyed the rather cagey cat-and-mouse play they seemed to engage in with the VT team. It looked like a text book study in how to keep accountability and responsible parties at arm’s length.

    Makes one wonder what the CDC folks thought about these “NSF funded” (as Love seemed to open up her e-mails with) Investigators? Makes me wonder as a taxpayer why NSF isn’t ashamed to have funded this ‘research’.

  3. Very good catch on the 11/15/2016 email where McElmurry was worried about Webber publicly posting her letter. Why was he worried?

    Well, look at the letter on page 32 of the packet. It has a date of 6/14/2017 because Webber never got the original copy. Webber’s ordeal of trying to get a copy of that letter is documented on page 15-19 . Now if we can believe Dr. Love, the letter was first printed out at 3:30 am on 11/19, because Dr. Love could not sleep as she was getting ready to travel.

    Everyone should feel very sorry for Dr. Love, who literally works herself to death, repeatedly botching simple tasks like failing to get Webber her results. Of course, if Dr. Love had not pulled a FACHEP FIREDRILL, with the alarmist crap failed press release a few days earlier, maybe she (and everyone else) could have had some sleep on 11/19.

    As you suggest, it is interesting to speculate, on why FACHEP “failed” to get the letter to Webber. Especially given McElmurry’s written concern about publicly posting that letter a few days earlier. The key point on the letter, and the only point in bold, was that FACHEP found NO SHIGELLA in Webber’s water. As you said, why is McElmurry afraid Webber would post that?

    On points 2-3, I personally believe that Dr. Love, is a living case study in how to NEVER do risk communication or work in vulnerable communities, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. But there is apparently a parallel universe where Dr. Love defines a pinnacle of engineering ethics. You can decide for yourself.

    I know what some people in CDC thought of Dr. Love’s work, but my code of ethics prevents me from revealing it herein. One must avoid creating an INCIDENT or ethical BREECH by revealing such truths (see Dr. Love’s 12/1/2016 email to CDC).

    • I think it’s even a little worse than that. My interpretation: best case scenario is Love was unsure of her techniques so used the ‘busy traveling mom’ excuse to ‘forget’ to send or ‘misplace’ the results. The worst case scenario is wanting to maintain elevated community concern and dependence on the “the scientists”. Unfortunately, I can only interpret McElmurry’s apparent fear of Kerri sharing her negative test results as clearly supporting the worst case scenario. But then, you’ve already identified Wayne State’s apparent business model (Part VI) in the FWC, which also supports the worst case interpretation.

      I’m impressed…I think you are getting somewhere. The key is perverse incentives and the ‘business model’ of the managing institutions combined with low personal ethics and ambition on part of “scientists”. Pretty sure the community still hasn’t figured out what hit them.

      • Ms. Webber and I just spoke and we think you might be right. We have to confess, that we never previously connected:

        1) McElmurry’s written fear that Webber would release her letter publicly without them issuing a press release first (see 11/15 email),
        2) their alarmist press release hyped up “Shigella-type disease” fears (see page 39 on 11/15), even though the press release said NO SHIGELLA detected,
        3) the letter to Webber stating in bold that there were no significant demonic Shigella bacteria or the “Shigella-type” entero (i.e., intestine) bacteria detected in her water [I guess the imaginary deal where the State should buy her house for $250K was null and void]
        4) her not getting the letter at all until 7 months later

        Of course, it could just be FACHEP incompetence too.

        Still, the way that Love chats to Sullivan on communication strategy, just before a bombshell happens to be released on social media as part of a FACHEP communication strategy….or McElmurry and Zervos spreading rumors about GCHD incompetence, shows clear orchestration.

        To the extent this sheds any light on anything (and it was indeed revelatory for Ms. Webber), we have to give you credit for this one. Ms. Webber’s family is still dealing with the trauma of that visit by the way.

        McElmurry actually had the whole family come listen to his warnings about the bacteria- in a sort of seance about their uncertain future– and one of her daughters was so scared that she literally did not bath for 3 months afterwards. Three years later she is still trying to work through her fears, even though she now knows they were incompetent. Reading how he made the “AWWA recommendations” out of thin air, and then scrambled in vain to find a real quote to support his own false alarm, shows the unscientific method behind the FACHEP madness.

        • Yes, it’s especially deplorable as I think I read her spouse has a health (dermal) problem that the “scientists” may have been sitting and looking right at as they made their comments. What better way to stoke fear?

          It’s almost heart breaking to think about the fears to which some of these families (perhaps in fragile health to start) were apparently subjected. I am really glad you are looking at this.

          (Zervos reported fist slamming and declaring that “people are going to die” might be seen as a last dying act in a play (even though that was re: Lp) that they knew was almost up, depending on timing of that statement. But regarding Shigella, he seems to be clearly preventing language that would de escalate citizen concerns. It all definitely means something when taken together).

          • Indeed it is heart-breaking. Thanks for your insights. Like I said, you clearly caught some things that we missed. I can only imagine what we would find, if true discovery was done, and we were not relying on what Dr. McElmurry thought it was ok to release by FOIA.

            I think we are just scratching the surface here.

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