Mr. Scott Smith and Flint Water Study

There were several questions by reporters and others last week, related to the timing and circumstances by which Mr. Scott Smith first decided to reach out to Flintwaterstudy. The first we heard of this, was a telephone conversation that Dr. Edwards had with Miguel Del Toral of EPA, as memorialized in an email on June 8th.

Dr. Edwards email to Miguel Del Toral EPA  June 8th, 2018

“…On Scott <Smith>, he would have to make a public statement before I spoke with him, but if he did make an appropriate statement, or if he wanted to jointly work up something mutually agreeable in writing for release on Flintwaterstudy– I would work with him.”

That conversation was followed by an email from EPA’s Mark Durno to Dr. Edwards on June 14th.

 Mark Durno EPA email to Dr. Edwards on June 14th, 2018

 Just following up on the discussion that you had with Miguel.  Scott is interested in having a private discussion with you about how his data is being misrepresented by the less-than-scrupulous activists in Flint.  He acknowledges and supports the Agencies and supporting experts position on the progress of the Flint distribution system.  Would you be willing to discuss this with him?  If so – how would you like to connect.”

Flintwaterstudy then began to work with Mr. Smith by phone and email, to give him a platform to correct false scientific statements, along with “lessons learned” from Water Defense’s disastrous work in Flint from 2016-2017. In all subsequent radio interviews, print articles on MLive and Huffington Post and other media–  Mr. Smith has stood by his retraction of flawed science as published on Flintwaterstudy. In a phone call this morning (7-28-2018), Mr. Smith again affirmed that he was sorry about his flawed scientific statements from 2016-2017, and that he still stood by his public retraction and apology. While we will continue to support Mr. Smith’s efforts to apologize and correct scientific errors—we have no other relationship with Mr. Smith. Any representation made to the contrary, by those who long supported Mr. Smith, or who have represented him—is simply false.

Michigan vs. Lyon documents/ Edwards vs. Paul Schwartz et al.

We are posting both sides [prosecution and defense briefs (with addenda)] in the case Michigan vs. Lyon.  Dr. Edwards was an uncompensated fact witness subpoenaed to testify in that case. We previously posted Dr. Edwards testimony in both the Lyon and Wells case.

Dr. Edwards, acting as a private citizen, has also filed a lawsuit directed at actions of two Washington D.C. residents (Paul Schwartz and Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou) and another member of their organization Campaign for Lead Free Water [prominent Flint activist Melissa Mays]. General background associated with some events leading up to this lawsuit are described in a recent Huffington Post article by Art Delaney,  blogs we wrote on a related matter,  and another blog from early 2018. Details of the lawsuit might soon be (or perhaps already are) publicly available.

Lyon Prosecution Brief

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Lyon Defense Brief and Addenda

Download (PDF, 1.04MB)

[Press Release] Elon Musk and Flint’s current water problems

Elon Musk has prompted a Twitter storm, by offering to get Flint residents filters so that they could meet “FDA” levels of lead in water. While any serious offers of help are certainly welcome, Mr. Musk did not seem to be aware that Flint residents are already getting free lead filters from the state. There is also widespread public distrust of the water produced by those filters, but it has been proven that they are very effective in removing lead to meet EPA standards.

Flint still has very serious problems with its water main infrastructure, many residents still only trust bottled water, and there are many other water related needs that are a high priority. If he is serious, we are hopeful that he will do his homework and address some of those concerns after a phone call with Mayor Weaver.

Update 6 pm 7-12-2018When asked by reporters to comment on Mr. Musk’s offer of providing filters to meet FDA water lead regulations, Dr. Edwards gave a response that was flippant and without any of the context provided above. He sincerely apologizes for this mistake. While Flint residents may not presently need filters to remove lead, there is a long, long list of needs related to water safety and infrastructure that Flint does need. As we have noted many times, Flint is indeed suffering from a water infrastructure and affordability crisis, like many cities in the U.S., even if the water lead issue is presently being managed. We hope that Mr. Musk is serious about his offer to help and will follow through on it.

Dr. Marc Edwards

Lessons I Learned in Flint and Clarifying the Facts — By Scott C. Smith

Flint Water Study Guest Blog Series — Mr. Scott Smith

FlintWaterStudy will support anyone who is intellectually honest and wants to be part of the solution to problems. A few weeks ago we were approached by Mr. Scott C. Smith, with whom we have obviously had some disagreements over the years. After a series of frank discussions, we agreed to share his hard-earned experience and insights about Citizen Science — we are also providing him with a public forum to set the record straight about certain aspects of his work.


Lessons I Learned in Flint and Clarifying the Facts

By Scott C. Smith

Background on My Work before Flint.  In 2006, the successful company I owned at the time, was wiped out in oil contaminated flood waters.  At the time, my company was developing a specialty Open-Cell foam for the medical market.  While my primary focus was on taking care of all of my employees and figuring out how to use my best efforts to preserve the jobs and get the operations back up and running, I realized in the corner of the factory this developmental foam for the medical market was actually absorbing oil and repelling water.  My obsession with oil and chemical contamination in water began.

In 2007, on the one-year anniversary of the flood disaster I was visited by Senator Chuck Schumer.  Sen. Schumer joined me for a tour of the rebuilt factory and visited my incredible employees that fought so hard with me to bring the company to life again.  News coverage related to Sen. Schumer’s visit can be found here.

In 2008, I was informed that Sen. Schumer had nominated me for the United States Small Business Administration Phoenix Award.  I was shocked and humbled to receive the Phoenix Award in 2008. Here is the official press release and video link to the introduction at the SBA award ceremony in Washington D.C.

As my obsession and passion continued to grow for developing an Open-Cell foam that worked to remove oil and chemicals from spills, I went into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 where my new technology was endorsed by BP America and used to help preserve and protect the wetlands along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico and near the site of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.  Here are some endorsements statements from BP and associated media coverage.

As a result of my work with BP America in the Deepwater Horizon Gulf, I realized there was an unmet need for the simultaneous removal and detection of oil and other chemical contaminants from water.  Subsequent to Deepwater Horizon, I began going to oil spill and chemical spill disasters to test water and help communities better understand what is in their water.  After having gone through my own oil-contaminated flood disaster and walked the streets of a devastated community, I knew first-hand what it was like to go through a contamination disaster and wanted to help other communities with lessons I learned from experiencing my own flood disaster in 2006.

In 2013, while I was on the ground during the ExxonMobil Mayflower, AR Pegasus pipeline spill doing water testing on my own, Mark Ruffalo (founder of Water Defense) reached out to me directly.  After meeting with Mark in New York City in October of 2013, I agreed to volunteer my time and donate my developing time exposure testing with Open-Cell foam technology as long as Water Defense paid for my expenses.

Prior to Flint, I called out gaming of water sampling in oil spill disasters by United States’ government, responsible parties, and members of the Gulf Oil Spill Operational and Scientific Advisory Team (“OSAT” committee). To some extent that made me distrust government, and during the Flint Federal emergency, maybe caused me to say some things I now regret.  Although I had extensive experience in oil and chemical spill disasters prior to Flint, my effort in  Flint was the first time I ever dealt with premise plumbing problems under a media spot-light related to important public health issues such as showering and bathing. I learned a lot of hard lessons about Citizen Science during the Flint Federal Emergency that I wanted to share.

 

1st Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  Do not post videos or press releases on the Internet without taking the time to make sure that potential confusion is minimized, and make sure you qualify any research with appropriate citations and in context.

When I made statements about the possible dangers from inhaling lead in showers and Flint residents potentially having problems from low blood pressure from the phosphates added to water to assist the recovery, this was based on superficial input and research unrelated to drinking water provided to me from toxicologists/trained scientists. Given what I now know, I should have indicated that significant adverse health effects from these issues was extremely unlikely, and my statements were opposite to those of scientific authorities leading the Federal relief effort.

[Additional context and background relating to my previous statements about low blood pressure is provided in the section on Previously Unreported Facts and Context about My Work in Flint.]

Also, when I made statements about high levels of chloroform detected by my Open-Cell foam in time exposure testing (“WaterBug®”), I was comparing the data to my prior samples collected from oil/chemical spills including fracking related contamination of water– which I now know have very little likelihood of having chloroform contamination relative to potable water where some chloroform is expected. I did not make this clear. The levels of chloroform and other disinfection by-products (“DBPs”) in Flint, I detected in early 2016, are not abnormal compared to drinking water of other cities when considering current regulations and laws. I later did testing in some non-Flint cities where DBPs were lower than what I measured in Flint, and I came to the same conclusions as published by Dr. Marc Edwards in 2017.

Based on my experience in Flint, my strong opinion is that we need professional, respectful, and productive dialogue with more research with proper scientific review surrounding potential human exposure (especially those that are immunocompromised) in hot water to microbial contaminants and volatile chemicals (e.g. chloroform).  Currently, there are no regulations nor standards for hot water and contaminants in hot water.  Perhaps it is time to have this discussion and consider whether regulations or standards should be changed?

At one point I also mis-spoke, and said I was comparing my data to that I had collected from other bathrooms all around the country, which created a further impression that our measurements of chloroform in Flint were in violation of existing regualtions and standards.  Again, I was comparing my WaterBug time exposure testing for the presence of contaminants and did not make it clear that this testing cannot be directly compared to EPA regulations on chloroform that are based on conventional grab samples.

Furthermore, almost all of my testing in Flint involved side by side conventional  grab sampling for metals and volatile chemicals in conjunction with the WaterBug for testing for the presence of contaminants in an attempt to better understand why Flint residents were reporting problems with the hot water during showers and baths.

After working directly with the EPA, I learned how to make clear the presentation of conventional grab sample data along with innovative testing such as that of WaterBug, to prevent the data from being misused or causing unnecessary fear in the community.  Ultimately, in my collaboration with Mark Durno (On-Scene Coordinator for Flint for EPA Region 5), this confusion was eliminated from later presentations, but unfortunately there are some who continue to cite my earlier data without  proper context and clarity.  Links to communications with Mr. Durno and residents are attached. In no way, did I intend to scare any residents of Flint, but I regret that my work may have been represented to have that effect.

 

2nd Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  Follow your instinct when a controversy is in its infancy and communicate directly with those questioning your work.

This is the most significant mistake I made relative to Flint.  I have no one to blame but myself for not speaking in detail with Dr. Edwards and the Huffington Post in 2016.  Unfortunately, I listened to others and did not clarify the situation with appropriate facts when I was offered the opportunity to do so in April of 2016.  I was naïve and did not fully appreciate how some people would use my results in a harmful manner. A dialogue to clarify the facts in 2016 would have avoided a lot of pain and suffering for everyone involved.

I want to make it clear that I accept full responsibility for this and do not blame others.  In many ways, I am now grateful for what I learned (as painful as it was).

I want to be clear in that Mark Ruffalo and those actually doing the real work at Water Defense always had the best intentions to help and support communities completely free of charge (at all times) with water testing to gather data to better understand what was really in the water.  I assumed that all “non-profits” operated with the best intentions like Water Defense and I was wrong.

The “non-profit” world was still very new to me in 2016.  After what I learned and experienced in Flint, I came to the conclusion that perhaps non-profit organizations should be more accurately referred to as tax-exempt organizations.  In my experience I found the non-profit, tax-exempt world, and activist worlds to be far more cut throat than the business world, especially in a situation like Flint.

While most tax-exempt or “non-profit” organizations do great work, there are those who are not forthright with their true agendas.  Unfortunately, I did not make sure communications of our results  were clear, and saw others confuse or use our results for their own purposes, and this was unfortunate for everyone. While some others were also asserting that the water in Flint was not safe for bathing as per the opinions expressed on March 14, 2016 on the Steve Harvey Show in a special episode entitled, Is It Safe To Bathe In The Water In Flint”, we appeared to present actual data from Flint baths and showers in a manner that built upon those opinions.  Some individuals who heard about this, may have unnecessarily changed their bathing and showering habits.

 

3rd Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  Never ever ignore your instincts and allow yourself to be controlled in any way by lawyers or public relations firms that are “going to help you correct things” in the information age.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but I now know that Dr. Edwards and the Huffington Post would have listened to the facts had I followed my instinct and communicated directly and corrected the false allegations and untruths with the facts in 2016 and in 2017.  Again, I own this as my mistake for not following my instinct to clarify the true and accurate facts in 2016 and 2017.  Unfortunately, much misinformation and unnecessary drama resulted, when people could have come together and collaborated in a much more positive way to help the residents of Flint.

I was driven by a desire to help people, which is good, but it is easy to get carried away when you are directly and in person witnessing the pain and suffering of affected Flint residents and there are not always scientific answers to questions. For example, I got to know the Murphy family in 2016 (Adam and Christina) when their son was born. It was my understanding that the entire Murphy family was lead poisoned. I tried to help them evaluate filtering systems with the UA370 plumbers’ union (Harold Harrington and Ben Ranger) and found that many systems did not work as represented. When the Murphys received a donation of an NLP filtering system in 2017, it seemed to give the family relief and gave good data when I tested the water. When the Murphy family asked me if I would take a shower in their water with the NLP system after I tested the water, I said yes, I would.  When my private letter to the Murphy family was read on the internet, I can see how it sounded like I was endorsing an NLP  filtering system, when I wasn’t.  This was clarified in a statement from Christina Murphy.

Another example is the testing of Florlisa Fowler’s home.  Ms. Fowler contacted me and requested this testing.  When I paid for it through my for-profit company, instead of Water Defense, it highlighted the problems in trying to represent a non-profit and donate on behalf of a for-profit group at the same time and place. While I never made money off my for-profit company for Flint work, representing two different groups with two different goals can create confusion and invite criticism. The e-mail I sent to Ms. Fowler is here.

 

4th Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  If media or others misrepresent your research in a way that creates unnecessary fear or misinformation, it must be corrected immediately and decisively. 

There were some press releases/statements and YouTube videos released, that were based on my data, but did not provide the proper clarity and context. Not only did I not know about some of these press releases/statements and YouTube videos, but I did not approve these releases and statements.  In some circumstances with these statements and videos, I retweeted and/or liked to them on my Facebook without reviewing them. This implied that I agreed with them when my intent was simply to show support for the affected residents of Flint.

I never intended any of my retweets and/or Facebook likes to be considered endorsements, or indicate that I was in complete agreement with what is posted, but that is how it was interpreted.  I should have clarified results and corrected any mis-impressions that may have been created.

Titles to press releases, while in the moment on the ground during a disaster, need to be carefully considered and put into proper context so as not to cause undue public fear.  Our press release title “Dangerous chemicals discovered in baths/showers of Flint, MI” is a good example of what I would not do in the future.  In fact, before issuing press releases at all in the future, it would be best to work with and get the input of government agencies along with that of scientists experienced in the subject matter.  Once a press release is made, there is no taking it back.

 

5th Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  Public confrontations are painful and people get hurt. 

Taking advice from lawyers and public relation firms is sure to create more problems in a complicated scientific situation like the Flint Federal emergency. Avoiding confrontation and disengaging without explanation, is a huge mistake and another major lesson learned.  The advice from others to “cut and run” without reconciling the complicated issues was not in anyone’s best interest.

There is no doubt in my mind that we as a society now have to have a very serious conversation in this country about “non-profits” or what I more accurately refer to as tax-exempt organizations.  For example, it does appear that some tax-exempt organizations (never the good people at Water Defense) under the guise of “helping people in Flint” are really making money for their tax-exempt organizations at the expense of Flint residents. There now even appears to be movements in academic communities as well as in some “non-profit” or tax-exempt organizations to ignore scientific facts and intentionally spread misinformation for their own agendas.

I am also not clear about how such disagreements can be resolved in the future. Public confrontations are unpleasant, people will always make mistakes, and the fallout can create permanent financial and reputational damage.  That said, I was offered a chance to resolve the issues face to face, and I was also informed that a public confrontation would occur unless I did not correct and clarify public scientific statements at the time and immediately, and I now regret I did not do so. I refused those opportunities because I listened to lawyers and PR folks.  No one wins such battles, even though they occurred during the Flint Federal Emergency, and they will occur again.

Beyond just Flint and in today’s world, people should slow down and actually take the time to gather facts in this world of rampant societal attention deficit disorder, and striving for the most “likes” or “clicks” or “shares” on social media in and of itself without regard to facts and/or proper context.

It is my hope that my experience in Flint along with Dr. Edwards’ experience and all the lessons all of us learned, can be used to strengthen and better support collaborative efforts to make future Citizen Science that much better.

 

6th Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  Ethics and Citizen Science

What I witnessed personally in Flint in terms of residents lost trust, and then some bad citizen science, scared me. Without making any judgment, in 2017, when Ben Ranger and Harold Harrington discovered lead sinkers shoved up a bathroom spigot while doing testing, I knew that this was a serious problem and I needed to do the right thing.  Within minutes of finding out, I not only contacted the MDEQ, but sent the video of the plumbers finding the lead sinkers to the EPA. When something is not right, you have to confront it immediately and directly; however, it is important not to make false allegations.

To this day I have no idea what happened, and I do not know who put the lead sinkers in a bathtub spigot in Flint.  All I can say unequivocally is that neither Ben nor Harold nor I were involved in any way other than to report the situation immediately to the proper authorities. Many people got mad at me for reporting this issue to EPA and MDEQ, but I would do the same again.

 

7th Citizen Science Lesson Learned:  Scientific authority is not all bad but even necessary to ensure safety. 

As a named inventor on a multitude of issued and pending patents, I could have never have received these patents without a strong belief that science is a great tool. In this day and age, we now live in a world where information (whether accurate or grosslly inaccurate) is instantly disclosed on the internet, and in the public.  Also, it has become much more challenging for someone with my background and experience, to find the proper scientific authorities when trying to think outside the box and invent solutions.

As I have learned much from my experiences in Flint, I have now taken extra measures with my work to make sure I find the proper and qualified scientists to review my fieldwork before any final conclusions are communicated to the public.

Not only do scientific authorities like the EPA, FEMA and CDC have a purpose, but they significantly mitigate risks of injuries and keep us safe every day, whether it is driving a car, flying in a plane, visiting the doctor, drinking water, or taking a shower. These agencies make mistakes, but the solution is to fix the mistakes, and not attack everything they say. I am proud to have worked with Mark Durno and the EPA productively in Flint, and I look forward to future collaborative work with Dr. Marc Edwards and others to not only better diagnose contamination events, but to work towards solutions for communities impacted with water contamination.

CORRECTING OTHER ERRORS and PROVIDING context about my work

Previously Unreported Facts and Context about My Work in Flint.  In January 2016, at the request of Water Defense and residents, I was asked to go to Flint, MI.  Although the switch back to Detroit water from the Flint River had already occurred along with proper additives (orthophosphate) to heal and re-coat the pipes after the previous exposure to corrosive Flint river water, residents were continuing to experience rashes and other health related symptoms that they suspected might be due to bathing/showering. Prior to Flint, I had been on the ground and done fieldwork in approximately 60 water contamination events since 2010 and the flood disaster that affected by business in 2006 forever changed my life.

On March 14th, 2016, water engineer Robert Bowcock and Dr. Marilyn McPherson-Corder appeared on the Steve Harvey Show as announced here: Steve Harvey Dedicates Whole Show to Flint Water CrisisDr. Marilyn McPherson-Corder unequivocally stated “..bathing in the water is not safe…the only thing that water is good for is flushing the toilet…”  whereas Robert Bowcock a stated “…you gotta understand you cannot be bathing in this water…” – the full video clip is here: Is It Safe To Bathe In The Water In Flint”.

Having seen that, on March 19th, 2016 I tested the home in Flint of UA370 business manager and master plumber Harold Harrington with Ben Ranger, also of UA370.  I learned from speaking to Harold and his wife, that they suspected their problems with low blood pressure were caused by the water. I came to learn that other Flint residents had problems with low blood pressure.

On the basis of my prior work in oil disaster responses, I am used to thinking “outside the box” and doing my best to solve problems in the real world in collaboration with others. But in a Federal Emergency with public health implications concerning potable water, this approach can create confusion, regardless of my intentions or outlier scientific opinions stated by others that are not supported by data, including some who had PhDs or MDs.

In part of my “outside the box” thinking to help better understand what could possibly be going on with the shower and bath water in Flint, I worked closely with Harold Harrington and Ben Ranger.  Harold, Ben, and I began testing water at or near a meter with intent to gather data about the state of the water in the distribution system as it enters a home, the water heater, and the hot shower/bath water.  In following a process that seemed logical to me whereby I gathered water testing data with the plumbers, and, then had the data reviewed by what I sincerely believed (at the time) to be appropriate experts before I commented publicly, I had no idea (at the time) just how much drama would begin and that my life would never, ever be the same again.

Unfortunately, as I spent weeks on the ground testing Flint residents’ homes with the UA370 to gather data, there were those that decided to attempt to take advantage of my good faith work and issue press releases and investor decks without my approval – these people were trying to take advantage of the situation and I was absolutely furious when it was brought to my attention.  Although, I demanded that false press releases and investor decks be removed from the Internet, it is virtually impossible to completely remove false statements in this day and age.

Correcting Some Errors from Prior Reporting. For the years 2013- 2016, I was a volunteer for Water Defense.  This was made clear to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 by Water Defense and the New York Times Magazine issued this correction:  An article on Aug. 21 about Flint’s water-contamination crisis referred incorrectly to Scott Smith’s relationship with Water Defense when he was named the group’s chief water scientist. He was appointed to the post and receives no compensation beyond expenses; he was not hired.”

Also, Water Defense was always a believer in Citizen Science (science defined in this context as acquiring knowledge in a systematic way) and it is in this context that Water Defense initially suggested for me to have a title “Chief Scientist.” Although my title was officially changed in 2015 to Chief Technology Officer and Investigator from Chief Scientist to prevent any further confusion that I was a trained scientist, it is impossible to remove prior press releases and other information from the internet.  In retrospect, I should not have approved and used a title prior to 2015 that created confusion and that implied that I was a trained scientist as that was never the intent in any way.   In 2017, I did receive a monthly retainer from Water Defense from January through June of 2017, where I was an outside consultant.

Prior press coverage and information in blog posts declined to disclose the fact that I deployed just as many conventional grab samples as WaterBug samples.  This is a critical point that even the EPA made clear in statements to media.

I never received any royalties whatsoever for the WaterBug that was used in Flint, although I eventually hoped to develop the WaterBug to the point that such commercial revenues would be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, in May of 2016, a spokesman, Mitch Stoltz, for my licensee Opflex Environmental Technologies for Open-Cell foams for industrial oil and chemical spills, spoke to the Huffington Post about a confidential license agreement that after he spoke with the Huffington Post (and refused to retract his statement) he admitted he never read.  For me to get a royalty on a specific product like the WaterBug, sales for my licensee would have to be over $6 million in any calendar year and the product would have to be listed in the License as a scheduled “Royalty Product” – the WaterBug was never, ever listed as a Royalty Product.

Not only were the sales of my licensee, Opflex Environmental Technologies, never even close to $6 million per year, but Opflex Environmental Technologies announced the shut down of the factory in Indianapolis, Indiana on or about October 15th, 2017.

Even if the sales of Opflex Environmental Technologies would have been over $6 million and I would have received a specific royalty on the “base foam” of the WaterBug, the base foam was worth $216 and the royalty would have been calculated to yield only $6.48 – yes that is six dollars and 48 cents.   And, if I had received this royalty payment related to Flint, I would have donated the $6.48 to Water Defense. 

Furthermore, I even made it clear to Water Defense when I began volunteering in 2013 through 2016 that any royalties received by me related to any of my direct volunteer work for Water Defense would be donated back to Water Defense; and this includes the time period of January through June of 2017 where I received a retainer from Water Defense as an outside consultant.

Additionally, while it has been erroneously implied and/or erroneously published in blogs and/or news articles that I was involved with Mr. Stoltz’s business decisions to not pay real estate taxes or rent on a manufacturing plant, I have no ownership in Opflex Environmental Technologies nor have I had any control to make or even influence any of their business decisions.

In fact, I make my position clear when a newspaper article entitled Pending Eviction puts 50 St Johnsville Jobs at Risk was published on December 24, 2014.

As stated in the article, “Scott Smith, creator of Opflex foam technology and former head [owner] of the company when it was still called Cellect Plastics, said he will do everything he can to keep the jobs in St. Johnsville….Although he sold the company some years ago, Smith still owns the foam technology (he licenses it to Opflex) and said he remains “very sensitive about the jobs” he helped create….  “They are great, hardworking people who don’t deserve a notice over the holidays that their jobs are in jeopardy,” Smith said. “I’m hoping to appeal to logic and the benefits of preserving these jobs in upstate New York. But you cannot occupy a building for free. Those are the simple facts.””

Important and Essential Clarification of My Work in Flint 

When asked, here is how I now summarize my work in Flint as it relates to the issue of rashes and other potential problems with bathing and/or showering and Dr. Marc Edwards:

“I [Scott Smith] am in agreement with Dr. Marc Edwards and others with the key findings in the attached 2017 published paper entitled, Showering in Flint, MI: Is there a DBP problem?“.  The testing and research I did with the Union Plumbers of UA370 along with Flint residents in 2016 and 2017 eventually came to similar conclusions (below) as this published paper did in 2017.” In addition, I acknowledge the U.S. Centers for Disease Control did a scientific study, that indicates that the incidence of rashes in Flint during 2016, was not higher than that experienced in other U.S. cities. See here: http://www.phe.gov/emergency/events/Flint/Documents/rash-report.pdf

However, Dr. Susan Richardson, when she worked for the EPA, has previously identified gaps and concerns with existing regulations and the differences (when exposed to potentially contaminated water) of the three human exposure pathways of ingestion (drinking), inhalation (breathing), and dermal (skin).  A link to Dr. Richardson’s previous work is here (Slides 14 and 15 are key).

Given Dr. Richardson’s previous research, along with her work with Dr. Edwards and my experiences in Flint, I concur that continued research throughout the United States into potential human health effects via inhalation and dermal exposure to disinfection by-products in showers is important research.”

From Dr. Marc Edwards’ peer-reviewed paper and which I agree with based on my fieldwork in Flint and subsequent to Flint:

  • “While DBPs, such as dichlorobenzene, dichloroacetonitrile, bromoform, and bromodichloromethane, are classified as skin irritants in their pure forms, no studies have been conducted to determine irritant characteristics of them at levels that would be present in shower water.”

  • “Overall, hot shower water from Flint was similar to waters sampled from the three other cities and did not have unusually high levels of DBPs or other organic chemicals that could be responsible for the skin rashes observed by residents.”

  • “Levels were highest in the Flint hot shower water, with an average of 74 μg/L for the two residences as compared to 38 μg/L for the cold shower water. Chloroform was the dominant THM detected, up to 58 μg/L.”

  • “Interestingly, Flint did have significantly higher levels of total THMs compared to other cities, but these were still below the regulatory limit of 80 μg/L, even in the hot water. It should be noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate hot water or shower water.”

  • “At the same time, results suggest that future epidemiologic studies may want to consider also measuring DBPs in hot water to more completely account for higher levels in showering or bathing exposures. Finally, while we did not find a “smoking gun” as the cause of the skin rashes, we only measured DBPs and other organic chemicals. It is possible that an inorganic chemical or microbial contaminant may be responsible.”

I have also collaborated and shared extensive data with the EPA.  Specifically, I have worked closely with Mark Durno.  As I learned from previous unintentional mistakes and/or where I should have added more clarity, I sought input (as previously disclosed with the links to the detailed e-mails) from Mr. Durno and the following are examples of direct quotes from communications I sent to Flint residents after review by the EPA on or about March of 2017:

Please note that until proper toxicology and epidemiological studies are done, no cause and effect relationships can be made between exposures to chemicals and/or bacteria detected and reported human health effects.

Attached are the analytical reports from recent testing conducted at your home by UA370 – Harold Harrington and Ben Ranger. Also, I’ve included chlorine data as provided from the City of Flint for your street. Please let me know if you have any questions.  If you have any questions about the chlorine residuals on your street please contact the City of Flint Water Treatment Plant; or, Mark Durno, EPA, at 440-250–1743.” 

Summary

The way I conclude and summarize all of this is quite simply with a quote from Winston Churchill, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

I am grateful and appreciative of both Dr. Edwards’ courage to stand up and speak and his courage to sit down and listen to me and work with me to correct the facts, clarify the facts, and educate people on the lessons learned (for all involved) surrounding my work in Flint.

I look forward to working with and collaborating in the future with Dr. Edwards along with many others to be a part of the solution to water contamination and infrastructure challenges facing so many communities across the United States.

Associated Documentation:

Scott Smith US SBA Phoenix Award for 2008:

Download (PDF, 206KB)


Endorsements from BP:

Download (PDF, 2.24MB)


Email exchanges with officials at the US Environmental Protection Agency:

Download (PDF, 172KB)


Email from Ms. Christina Murphy concerning NLP Filtration Systems:

Download (PDF, 413KB)


Email to Ms. Florisa Stebbins:

Download (PDF, 50KB)


Slides from a talk by Dr. Sue Richardson:

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Highlights of a Typical Week of “Citizen Engineering” in Flint

Despite State of Michigan monitoring data indicating that Flint has been meeting Federal Lead Action Levels for nearly 2 years, and other independent data supporting that official result — a mantra that Flint water is still too dangerous for drinking (even after lead filters) or bathing continues unabated from some quarters. For outsiders perplexed by the irreconcilable discrepancy between what the scientific data shows versus claims of the “citizen engineers” who want to disrupt expertise/communities, we herein outline  a typical week of misinformation flowing from some of the usual suspects: Dr. Laura Sullivan (FACHEP/Kettering), Activist Melissa Mays (Campaign for Lead Free Water) and Jordan Chariton (Independent political reporter).

June 26, 2018

Jordan Chariton releases a video, claiming he will soon expose massive cheating by the State of Michigan on water lead sampling.  He further asserts that the State of Michigan is perpetrating “ethnic cleansing” in Flint. Excerpts:

Dr. Laura Sullivan (FACHEP) emails a large group of scientists, expressing concerns that water treated by lead filters in Flint schools is not safe for children. Dr. Sue Masten (FACHEP) and George Krisztian (MDEQ) point out that  the data she was citing came from unfiltered water, and it was collected more than 2 years ago before lead fixtures had been replaced throughout the schools – in fact, all of the filtered water samples collected from the schools had undetectable levels of lead. This is just the latest example in which Dr. Sullivan looks at good monitoring data, and somehow fools herself into thinking it is really bad—at least this time she did not publicly state a conspiracy theory that that the State of MI and the media have something to hide, and do not care about children.

June 28, 2018

A Flint resident posts a photo of a hydrant spewing discolored water with a statement “Taken yesterday in Flint MI.”  Another person comments “This is what deregulation looks like,” to which Melissa Mays states “ABSOLUTELY.  And Legal Genocide.”

Mays then takes the photo, and makes a new posting with the text “Is this photo from 2015? Nope. Yesterday. But “experts” tell us our water is “restored” and “normal.” REALLY? Drink up, then.” This photo and caption goes viral and is shared by Dr. Sullivan and Jordan Chariton.

June 29, 2018

FlintWaterStudy shows that the photo supposedly taken June 27th, 2018, was actually from 2015. Mays disputes our irrefutable evidence, and repeatedly asserts the photo was actually taken on June 27, 2018. The location of the hydrant is stated to be Martin Luther King and Flint Parkway.

Perplexed by Mays’ continued insistence that the photo was from 2018, Flint resident Keri Webber goes on a quest to try and find the hydrant that was supposedly spewing the horrible water reflecting “legal genocide.”  A summary of her Facebook live posts that day, affirm the position of FlintWaterStudy that the photo was actually from 2015. Flint resident Florlisa Fowler also confirms the photo is from 2015.

Melissa Mays continues to post “Here is yet ANOTHER example of Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and @flintwaterstudy taking it upon themselves to attack poisoned Flint residents and call them liars.”  She later writes “Share your photos and your stories because YOUR TRUTH MATTERS.”

Jordan Chariton posts a #FlintWaterCrisis UPDATE, asserting that “a resident who I will not name” was  “rushed to the hospital and doctors found that he or she had a 48.5 parts per billion blood lead level.” And that “Once the doctor found his or her blood lead level to be the astronomical 48 parts per billion, he told him or her to STOP SHOWERING. So did POISON CONTROL. Why is that important? Because experts (and I use that term loosely) like Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards have been UNWAVERING for years in dismissing Flint residents’ complaints about getting sick from their SHOWER water, claiming you can not get lead poisoning from shower water….. When will the media start covering this again as the CRISIS it is?”

July 3rd, 2018

Dr. Sullivan removed the original posting claimed to be in 2018, and proven to be from 2015, but says “I am not apologizing for using the photo in error, because I’m still not certain of the date on which the photo was taken. I’m apologizing for not waiting to post until I’d determined the photo’s authenticity.”

Melissa Mays posts on Facebook that “Arsenic has been detected in my water….” She further posts that her doctor told her “transdermal absorption of lead is an issue,” and provides a written citation from a reference supposedly supporting that.

We fielded calls from those who read Mays posts and were worried about drinking arsenic contaminated water and getting lead exposure through the skin.  It turns out that her reference also states that “absorption of inorganic lead is minimal” through skin—and since lead in Flint water is 100% inorganic residents need not worry about absorption afterall. Consistent with what the authorities have been saying all along.

For those who were worried about May’s report of arsenic, we looked back at over 2,800 potable water samples collected during our sampling events in Flint since 2015. The highest was 3.9 ppb measured at the tap, where higher arsenic is to be expected because it is used in brass. The Federal standard of 10 ppb is measured at the treatment plant, and we always found undetectable arsenic in those samples. The average arsenic of 0.8 ppb in taps from Flint homes is lower than the typical U.S. water supply (Frey and Edwards, 1993).

Prologue:  July 4th and 5th, 2018

The exact same photo of the hydrant spewing discolored water taken in 2015, was reposted with the text “Flint still does not have safe water 7/4/2018.” A resident has retweeted the post and Melissa Mays “liked” it:

Once again Keri Webber goes back into the field to confirm that the photo is NOT from 2018, but the photo is reposted multiple times anyway.

Final Comments

The on-going battle between “citizen science” versus “citizen engineering” in post-Federal Emergency Flint continues, raising questions that should haunt all Americans. Do facts matter anymore? Are all “Truths” really equal? And if the tactics of the science anarchists operating in Flint, successfully undermine expertise and disrupt the community, spreading fear, hate and social anarchy-what then?

Flint still has very real problems, including a water infrastructure financial crisis, that gave rise to the Flint Water Crisis in the first place. The on-going conspiracy theories, misinformation and fearmongering, make it virtually impossible to constructively address those problems.

Primary Authors and Research: Drs. Marc Edwards and Siddhartha Roy