The Big Picture
Flintwaterstudy launched July 2015 to “help resolve scientific uncertainties associated with drinking water issues being reported in the City of Flint, MI.” We worked overtime to expose the depths of the Flint Water Crisis in terms of lead, legionella and unethical government behavior—a Federal Emergency was declared January 2016.
The resulting international media sensation and $600+ million in relief funding accomplished great good but also created powerful corrupting influences. A peer-reviewed paper Citizen Science During the Flint, Michigan Federal Water Emergency: Ethical Dilemmas and Lessons Learned published last week
About a year ago we launched this investigative science blog series, to shed light on the felony cases against Dr. Eden Wells and Mr Nick Lyon. At the time wrote about a presumption of guilt and perjury concerns as follows:
“In late September 2015, we wrote that some MDHHS employees were behaving unethically, but within a few days MDHHS reversed course by agreeing the water was unsafe, and after Dr. Wells started working with us in December 2015, we were impressed enough to call her out publicly in a good way on our webpage on January 7, 2016. Ever since, Michigan government has supported our scientific work and professionally answered all our questions, even when they were fully aware our research was showing that the switch to Flint River water was one key factor contributing to the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak and associated deaths. We published two peer-reviewed journal papers documenting this science in 2016 and 2017. At no point did anyone at MDHHS or the governor’s office discourage or impede our teams ground-breaking research that helped reveal the Flint Legionella outbreak.
Given our own positive experiences with MDHHS since December 2015, we were surprised when professors representing the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP) alleged under oath that the State of Michigan had not cooperated with their Legionella research. Indeed, sworn testimony by FACHEP professors was a basis for felony “obstruction of justice” charges against Wells and Lyons. To date, the media has generally sided with the presumably noble FACHEP professors and against the maligned state employees in all such disputes. Starting with this article, Flintwaterstudy will present an investigative series that calls that narrative into question…”
We are publicly blowing the whistle on our colleagues in this blog series because a miscarriage of justice might result if we were to remain silent. That injustice involves not just the lives of Dr. Wells and Mr. Lyon, but also the historical record of government achievement during the Flint Disaster response—it involves the commodity of public-trust, of which there is precious little in present day Flint. We blow the whistle not because it is easy or will be rewarded, but because it is hard and righteous. As Dr. Edwards correctly predicted to the Detroit News “…I fully expect to pay a professional price for upholding my responsibilities.”
When asked if he felt naïve about the later efforts to destroy his professional reputation, Edwards told the Washington Post: “It comes down to duty versus self-preservation….In a post-truth world, science has become just another weapon of tribal warfare, and rising above that takes courage.” We do fear for the fate of our
Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, some might ask: “What is our aim?” To answer in one word, it is TRUTH. Truth with a capital T. Truth, in spite of ourselves. Truth, with all its warts, human frailty, and soul-sickening unethical behavior. For without truth, as was tragically illustrated during the Flint Water Crisis and its aftermath… “we will all sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”
Part IX: One Day of Unfiltered Love
(December 14, 2016 – December 15, 2016)
An investigative science reporting series by Flintwaterstudy.org
Part 8 ended with FACHEP falsely assuring project manager Dr. Eden Wells (MDHSS) that the forthcoming December 14th, 2016 public meeting at the Flint Library would present nothing new, even as they prepared a presentation that would scare Flint residents and portray the State of Michigan unfavorably.
Dr. Ben Pauli (Kettering) later admitted that the purpose of the meeting was “to roll out <FACHEP> preliminary results directly to residents,” “winning over” the activists “who saw the state <of MI> as their number-one enemy” by emphasizing possible dangers of Flint water.
Let’s imagine ourselves in Dr. Wells’ shoes at 5 am the morning after the Flint library meeting, as she learned about media coverage, social media fallout, and FACHEPs sidebar conversations with residents. Illustrative snippets of each are provided below.
MEDIA COVERAGE. Although McElmurry told Wells no media would be invited, they attended and had a field day. Mlive ran a story with Dr. Love’s proclamation that it was important to flush the filters “at least one minute” to clear away dangerous bacteria and that residents should also be “boiling water or using a UV disinfection lamp” to treat filtered water. Her claims contradicted 11-13 months of unified messaging (FEMA, United Way, National Guard, ATSDR, EPA, GCHD, MDEQ, MDHSS, CDC, City of Flint, and FlintWaterStudy) that it was ok to directly drink POU filtered Flint water.
Mlive also quoted Melissa Mays, who was collaborating with FACHEP on an effort to create a narrative Flint water was getting worse:
“It was nice to hear that things aren’t all better… I can only imagine what would happen if I were to try to drink this through the tap filters. It’s telling me I’m making the right decision by drinking bottled water.”
FACHEP leader McElmurry expressed a self-promotional worldview, that no one else working on the FWC could possibly care for Flint residents, like “Wayne Cares for Flint.”
WNEM Channel 5 trumpeted “WATER SAMPLES REVEAL PROBLEM FOR FLINT RESIDENTS,” quoting Dr. Zervos (WSU): “
SOCIAL MEDIA. A selection of some social media quotes poignantly
Dr. Sullivan, acting in her role of “restoring trust” between Flint residents and the State of Michigan, unleashed a volley of FACHEP propaganda. She electronically high-fived Dr. Zervos for “speaking out” about the dangerous bacteria, inexplicably damned the State of Michigan for a “deluge of darkness that makes us afraid” and lauded McElmurry for navigating a “storm of voices that say that Flint residents aren’t able to handle the truth about their water.”
SIDEBAR CONVERSATIONS. Dr. Pauli wrote that at the beginning of the Flint library meeting, “I could tell we would have our work cut out for us winning <the activists> over.“ FACHEP worked overtime and pulled out all the stops after the formal presentation was over. In sidebar
Dr. Pauli also continued FACHEP’s smear campaign against Dr. Edwards. Herein, we only cite rumors that can be independently verified in Dr. Pauli’s draft book chapter or recorded public presentations. First, there was a FACHEP manufactured
Pauli introduced another strategic misquote, that Edwards had “claimed that Flint’s tap
Not content with just verbal rumors, Pauli put exclamation points on alleged differences between FACHEP’s message about water safety, and the many false claims they made about Edwards, by tweeting: “The team is not ready to make a blanket statement about the water being safe”. And in the book chapter Pauli wrote, “at least we were not proclaiming the water “safe” at the meeting.
DR. LOVE UNFILTERED
How on earth can someone portray the free distribution of POU filters, that are purchased voluntarily by tens of millions of American each year to remove particles, tastes/odors, lead and organic chemicals, as an unprecedented, life-threatening, uncaring human experiment? More importantly, WHY would someone do that? We trace it back to Dr. Love’s deep-seated insecurities and jealousies, and a quest to make her mark as a heroine of the Flint water crisis one way or another.
The die was cast in her initial January 2016 email to Dr. Edwards, where she acknowledged the POU filters were her only professional experience remotely relevant to the FWC. Yet, even on that narrow topic, she had never published a single
At the December 14, 2016 press conference, with no true experts in her way, Dr. Love would get her chance to take the microphone unfiltered. We even suspect that the false written statement to Dr. Wells that nothing new would be presented, was deliberate, to make sure no voices of scientific reason would intrude or otherwise bear witness to what FACHEP was doing.
The 18 pages of written talking points prepared days in advance of the library meeting, starts with ignorance of communicating molecular microbiology results to the public (i.e., SLOAN MOBE 101), builds on negligent false assumptions about the POU filter deployment in Flint, and ended with Love’s POU Flint filter “manifesto” with a predetermined conclusion set in concrete months earlier. There was a heavy emphasis on using the words “anomalous,” “abnormal,” and “unusual” to describe DNA detected in the Flint filters, and a repeated implication that filtered Flint water was probably dangerous for consumption without additional treatment (see
THE FLINT LIBRARY MESSAGE ACCORDING TO DR. BEN PAULI
We cite Dr. Ben Pauli’s personal account of the tone and tenor of FACHEP’s message from his draft book chapter:
…some unexpected results were emerging from the point-of-use filter study: bacteria were growing in the filters that did not seem to belong there. …. bacteria associated with the mammalian gut (suggestive of some sort of fecal contamination), including species listed by the World Health Organization as being especially dangerous because of their resistance to antibiotics…. <Given t>he unforeseen discovery of potentially pathogenic bacteria, it seemed like <residents> were entitled to know about the findings while there was still time to take extra precautions, even though the results were preliminary and analysis ongoing.
Bursting Dr. Pauli’s bubble of fictitious drama, twenty-seven months later, FACHEP has still not published compelling data to support their claims about dangers of POU filtered water. In mid-2017, FACHEP admitted they still had no evidence of harmful bacteria or filter associated disease. As for the “unforeseen discovery of potentially pathogenic bacteria” and antibiotic resistance DNA, that was foreseeable by anyone who bothered to read a few papers about
Yet the most ridiculous parts of Dr. Love’s “story,” were implied black magical properties of POU filters installed only in Flint. First, there was a claim that in Flint, somehow the POU filters were recreating a warm, nutrient-rich ecosystem of a “mammalian gut,” thereby growing human fecal pathogens that would cause “Shigella-like disease” with “especially dangerous” antibiotic resistance. Or as Dr. Pauli wrote ominously, that “Filter use in Flint was not…comparable to filter use elsewhere” and the situation was “abnormal.”
Second, was the illusion that mounting a POU filter to the end of a kitchen faucet in Flint, negated all upstream treatments and created a “single barrier”
Dr. Love also made no mention Flint was benefiting from enhanced chlorine dosing, enhanced corrosion control, and intense bacterial monitoring required by EPA in Flint from early 2016 onwards as implemented by relief agencies. No mention that legally-required coliform bacterial monitoring proved that there was highly effective bacteria control, with results so good, that coliform bacteria were undetectable in Flint water samples for 3 consecutive years.
Given all of the above, why was Dr. Love so focused on POU filter dangers in Flint? Imagine what would have happened, if Dr. Love had held a press conference, articulating her fears that filtered Ann Arbor drinking water was so dangerous, her family had actually started boiling it before consumption. Or held a press conference, announcing that all 4 million consumers of Detroit water with POU filters (probably at least a million people), should also boil or UV treat their water, and not just the 0.1 million consumers receiving the same Detroit water (but with enhanced disinfection) in Flint. Of course, such assertions would have exposed Dr. Love as an alarmist crackpot. It was only in Flint, where FACHEP had carefully prepared the ground with 4 months of rumormongering, that such unbalanced claims could be taken seriously.
The takeaway message received by Flint residents who attended the meeting were that: 1) their lives may be in imminent danger, 2) Flint water treatment was grossly inadequate, 3) POU filters were providing only a “single barrier” of protection, 4) the “wrong” filters were selected by relief agencies, and 5) the filter itself was somehow turning good old Detroit water into mammalian excrement. It was therefore little surprise when one panicked resident called the State and
DR. LOVE: IT IS MY FAULT
“I don’t feel like I answered questions well, and didn’t say some of the things that were important to say…In the future, I will benefit from having a practice run on the presentation. I don’t get nervous, but I get laser focused on a few things at the expense of everything else. There are times when my laser focus is beneficial, but this was not one of them. Truly, I’ve been known to forget my name because I was so laser focused. Spending 2.5 hours with a red knuckle grip on the steering wheel coming up just primed my “laser focus” pump.”
McElmurry reassured Dr. Love that she “did great…. <and> it went about as good as could be expected.” He then proudly forwarded the WNEM story reporting how FACHEP was successful in destroying resident trust and creating needless fear about bacteria on the filters. The meeting was a grand success from the perspective of FACHEP’s leader and according to Dr. Pauli’s book.
DR. LOVE: IT IS NOT MY FAULT
After Dr. Love’s fantastic story of mammalian gut feces hit Dr. Wells’ fan at 5 am the next day, everything had to be dropped by Dr. Wells to change FACHEP’s dirtied diapers yet again. Whatever humility Dr. Love expressed the night before, was replaced by a renewed “laser focus” to “deny responsibility, accuse and blame others, and maintain a facade of arrogance and conceit.”
Love emailed McElmurry that “from my point of view:”
1. No new information was presented. Indeed, I held off on new information….
2. I remain perplexed how the information about the increase in bacteria across the filters is a surprise. Not only have we discussed this with them before, especially during the “you are going to release shigella data” kerfuffle, but did they not read ANY literature about filters before they decided to deploy 24,000 of them in Flint? Literature, papers, NSF Standards? Anything? This should not be a surprise and was the public health community’s responsibility when they decided to deploy an intervention that they do not understand.
3. I think I was balanced and measured and clear. Counts go up (not unusual for these filters) and we are looking at who those bacteria are. Again, this is absolutely not new. The only thing that is new is that the general public, not just those who we sampled, are now aware of what the state should have told citizens was a risk from the beginning.
This email reveals Dr. Love in full Dunning-Kruger glory. Based on 0 years of experience in drinking water public health crises, she constructs an alternate reality in which she is blameless, and all the relief agencies are incompetent and unethical. How dare the agencies not acknowledge Dr. Love as a great moral exemplar, engineering ethics philosopher, waterborne disease expert, and gifted risk communicator.
McElmurry then pounced on an opportunity to further gaslight Dr. Wells with another misrepresentation of reality: “I want to stress that no new information was presented…Overall, I think those that attended received the message and took it well. Obviously, we can’t control what others do with the information.”
Well, did FACHEP control the image of the multibarrier water treatment plant, disappearing after attaching a POU filter to a kitchen faucet? Did FACHEP control the message sent about the “cheap bastards” at the State of MI sponsoring their research? What about Dr. Sullivan’s “deluge of darkness that makes us afraid,” or FACHEP implying that filter use in Flint was unlike anything heretofore experienced in America? And if Dr. Wells did not like it, well, then what—still more pointless pleading to FACHEP’s higher motives?
WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH FACHEP LEADERSHIP?
Still struggling for an explanation regarding FACHEP’s reckless unscientific behavior, even after all the mistakes exposed in Parts 1-8, we found information online consistent with an emerging pattern of behavior that gave rise to the FACHEP-instigated Wells and Lyon felony cases:
When caught in the act with their unscrupulous behavior, most sociopaths and psychopaths will not show signs of contrition or remorse… On the contrary, they are more likely to double or triple down on their aggressive tendencies, increase hostility, deny responsibility, accuse and blame others, and maintain a facade of arrogance and conceit. Interestingly, many sociopaths will invent a victimhood story for themselves:…Casting themselves as victims can help sociopaths and psychopaths to defend their immoral conduct.
While we are not psychologists and cannot render a diagnosis, we nonetheless consider the above helpful, in providing a plausible hypothesis for behavior of this quintessential team of academic crybullies.
And to think that all of the above was accomplished from just 24 hours of Dr. Love unfiltered. After her first public taste of FACHEP glory, Love and McElmurry laid plans for an extraordinarily productive month. Over the holidays, when most of the world was taking a break, FACHEP would be working overtime to “double and triple down” on the Flint POU filter manifesto and inventing an epic story of victimhood.
Primary Author: Dr. Marc Edwards