Guest Blog: Dr. Susan Masten (Michigan State University)
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently held a round-table discussion in Flint on April 10, 2019 in which Kettering University’s Dr. Laura Sullivan (FACHEP) made specific claims about Flint’s water quality, sampling methodologies, perceived disregard for Flint’s poor and public schools, and potential manipulation in protocols by state officials when conducting tests in Flint schools. In this blog, I will investigate the veracity of Dr. Sullivan’s claims.
Dr. Sullivan Comment
1: There are parts of Flint that are not being tested at the same sort of regularity as others and it tends from what I can see to be the parts of Flint where the people are the poorest which turns out because of blight and water age the parts of Flint that might actually have the worst water and so I would like there to be a sort of conscious effort to make sure that when water is being tested and we are reporting that you know we’re under the 15 ppb or 10 ppb whatever threshold in parts of Flint that we can say with confidence that we’ve evaluated water in the parts of Flint that are being overlooked or just not given the kind of attention that they probably need more than any other parts of Flint.
Dr. Masten’s Response: I would like to know what evidence Dr. Sullivan has that some areas of Flint are not being tested as regularly as others. In fact, it seems to me that a conscious effort has been made to ensure that sampling programs cover all areas of Flint. As one example, the map below (Figure 1 bottom; dated May 2018) illustrates the revised monitoring program for chlorine residual and E. coli. The map shows that the new monitoring stations are evenly distributed across the city, and monitoring stations are located in poorer areas and areas with a high percentage of racial minorities. To my knowledge, there is no evidence to support the implication that the poorest parts of Flint are being systematically ignored.
As to the question of water age, a major effort has already been made to address the issue of water age. The January 2018 report on hydraulic modeling illustrates that monitoring stations #3 and #4 are located in the southwest corner of the city which has very high water age (see Figure 2). The 4th quarter data (the most recent quarterly data available) indicate that the chlorine levels are within an acceptable range (1.08 to 1.82 mg/L), while phosphate levels, turbidity and iron are similar to those in the rest of the city. Unfortunately, the system is oversized and as the report concludes “because of Flint’s low customer demands and a large number of dead ends, widespread solutions for high water age may not be possible.” However, very clearly conscious efforts are being made to address this issue.
Dr. Sullivan Comment #2: The other part of my question is related to the testing of the water in schools. Just, I don’t know exactly what caused this oversight, but the lead and copper rule and the Safe Drinking Water Act does not talk about testing water in schools. And it wasn’t until we were into this crisis then looked around the room and said “Ok, so who
is testing the water in schools? Then we realized that,” … but the problem is then in my view the protocol for developed by people in a room and it involved pre-flushing lines before water was tested and there is research that says that that can mask the presence of lead. So what I am hoping for and I know because this is something that might not naturally fall under DEQ because it is the schools and it might be a different department that something can be created to make sure that whatever methods are used to test water in schools are informed by
current research and not by people in a room who are thinking about what is possible or what is rational or whatever and that the people, teachers, and parents are brought in to the loop before that testing is taken on, and oh yeah, we’ll talk to you once we get the results, but really, this is all the trust thing; the people are part of this at the beginning, it is so much easier for them to trust.
Dr. Masten’s Overall Response: Dr. Sullivan seems to imply that the State of Michigan and the authorities have not taken the issue of lead in water in Flint schools seriously, are manipulating the school sampling protocol, or are otherwise undeserving of the public trust. Unfortunately, Dr. Sullivan’s inaccurate remarks only serve to feed the distrust that she would like to see addressed. Let’s go through Dr. Sullivan’s comments point by point:
Sullivan 1: “I don’t know exactly what caused this oversight, but the lead and copper rule and the Safe Drinking Water Act does not talk about testing water in schools….
Response 1: The
Safe Water Drinking Act only applies to community and non-community water
systems. Flint Community Schools are
neither a community nor a non-community water system. To require testing in Flint schools would
require new legislation, such as that introduced in the Michigan House in 2018
to mandate school testing for lead. As that bill was not taken up by the House,
there are no laws in Michigan that require lead testing in schools. Although water lead testing is not required by
law, the U.S. EPA has been encouraging schools (such as FCS) to conduct
voluntary water lead testing since 1990.
Sullivan 2: we… looked around the room and said, ok, so who is testing the water in the schools?”
Response 2: MDEQ completed
screening of Flint public schools for lead in the water on October 2, 2015.
I am not aware of any evidence that suggests that this initial screening was
prompted by questions from Dr. Sullivan.
It should be noted that additional testing was done in late 2015 and early
2016, and an aggressive program to replace outdated fixtures was initiated in 2017.
Extensive testing was conducted again in early 2018.
Sullivan 3: “the protocol was developed by people in a room and it involved pre-flushing lines before water was tested and there is research that says that that can mask the presence of lead.”
Response 3: The
protocol that was used in Flint schools was based on advice from U.S. EPA
personnel. It is important to note that samples were always taken prior to flushing. The samples collected after flushing provide additional
information, not to “mask the presence of lead.” For example, in the 2018
sampling event, 250 mL samples of unfiltered water were taken before
flushing. Flushing was then done and after overnight stagnation additional
samples were taken. This additional
sampling was done to standardize the
stagnation time. Additional sampling was planned; however, the FCS personnel
determined that it was unnecessary,
Sullivan 4: “So what I am hoping for and I know because this is something that might not naturally fall under DEQ because it is the schools and it might be a different department that something can be created to make sure that whatever methods are used to test water in schools are informed by current research and not by people in a room who are thinking about what is possible or what is rational or whatever.”
Response 4: School
testing is not under the jurisdiction of MDEQ.
Dr. Sullivan is wrong when she says the methods used in 2018
were not based on current research. If Dr. Sullivan has evidence to suggest
this was not the case, I would like to see it.
Sullivan 5: “..and that the people, teachers, and parents are brought in to the loop before that testing is taken on, and oh yeah, we’ll talk to you once we get the results.”
Response 5: Teachers
and parents have enough to do, without conducting original research on lead in
school water sampling and developing testing protocols. Also, the protocols should
be standardized so that results are comparable and meaningful. It would be impossible
to do this if every school devised their own unique sampling protocol.
The inaccurate and unsubstantiated comments made by Dr. Sullivan at this round-table only serve to foster distrust by suggesting that MDEQ is incompetent and working overtime to cover up problems with Flint’s water. My own experience personally witnessing and working on this problem contradicts this assertion. Every effort was made to use the best science to devise a plan to sample lead in schools. What happened in 2014 and 2015 was ill-fated and is the subject of ongoing litigation and criminal cases, which will hopefully hold responsible parties accountable, but the best interests of the people of Flint are not served by constant unfounded criticism of legitimate efforts made to rectify problems.
1. Dr. McElmurry and WSU, have still not provided a shred of evidence, supporting McElmurry’s written claim of working “in Flint” from 2010-2015. Nor have they resolved inconsistencies in his testimony under oath in Wells or Lyon criminal case about prior work “in Flint.” McElmurry continues his pattern of evasion and deflection in the Detroit News article:
“It is critical that the public trust our work,” <McElmurry> said in a statement. “Unsubstantiated accusations against researchers or members of the community do not help advance scientific understanding.”
2. FACHEP has not refuted a single fact, from the mountains of information we have painstakingly gathered and transparently presented. Every accusation has been substantiated. While we understand that FACHEP wants the public to trust their work, is such trust justified? Have Michigan taxpayers, or the cause of justice, benefitted from the millions and millions spent on FACHEP and their crybully felony criminal cases?
3. Spoiler Alert: Dr. Edwards and Dr. Wells did separately demand, in writing, that FACHEP public correct their false public scientific rumors in May 2017. This was after both endured 6+ months of public and private FACHEP strategic maligning. Mr. Donnelly accurately characterizes Dr. Edwards demand as an ultimatum, that FACHEP leadership (Drs. McElmurry/Love) refused to issue a correction, and that Dr. Edwards fulfilled his written vow to correct the record publicly and transparently. This entire series would have been avoided, if Drs. McElmurry/Love had corrected FACHEP false statements and personal attacks in May 2017.
4. The article makes an unspecified FACHEP claim that Dr. Edwards is “unwilling to entertain new research.” Is FACHEP referencing their novel hypotheses that the Shigella outbreak, rashes and respiratory problems arose from the POU filters in Flint? Is it referencing McElmurry’s false quotes about chlorine standards, or FACHEP’s advice to “boil water” before drinking it or bathing in it, or their unsubstantiated claim of “abnormal” bacteria in Flint? We remain perplexed.
5. In relation to Water Defense (as in the case of FACHEP), Dr. Edwards went to great lengths to avoid a public confrontation. Mr. Smith and Flintwaterstudy have since reconciled. We shared our story in a guest blog post, in news articles, and even co-authored a “Lesson’s Learned” section of a peer reviewed publication on Citizen Science. The public confrontation with Water Defense was painful for everyone. Unfortunately, we deemed it necessary. The public confrontation with FACHEP is also unfortunate and necessary. We believe that the harm done by the FACHEP PhD’s, dwarfs any harm done by Water Defense, by orders of magnitude.
6. Dr. Ben Pauli (Kettering), still cowardly refuses to acknowledge, whether he personally instigated or co-authored the Flintcomplaints letter he once attributed to “residents.” Pauli equivocates to the Detroit News as follows:
“Pauli said he and others wrote the second letter but wouldn’t say whether he penned the first. He said the more important issue was the fact that so many residents had signed it. “The authorship is not what matters,” he said. “What matters is what the letter says. That’s where the focus should be.”
7. Dr. Lambrinidou’s personal vendetta, is best examined through her own words and emails. Interested parties may read them and decide for themselves. Her lawyer has obtained copies of those unaltered public records from FOIA. If emails were doctored, that could be easily proven– but the emails were not doctored.
The FOIA case
vs. Wayne State University (WSU) continues to shed light on the disturbing
story of Dr. McElmurry’s Flint Hydraulic Model, his qualifications, and rigor of
detailed how McElmurry’s false claims about possessing a complete Flint
hydraulic model in early October 2015, snowballed from first obtaining Dr.
Edwards’ assistance to win an NIH grant, to leadership of FACHEP, to numerous examples
of McElmurry’s incompetence executing Flint work, to attacks on Dr. Edwards’
reputation, to the crybully FACHEP-instigated felony cases against Wells and Lyon.
… McElmurry overstated his prior involvement in City of Flint’s drinking water system and contamination issues. These overstatements were intended to …substantiate large research awards/funds for Wayne State University and other contributors.
….under oath and in response to the LARA Complaint, McElmurry has been unable to substantiate prior City of Flint experience….these overstatements regarding City of Flint experience are deemed to be “misrepresentations”….
During a drinking water crisis and in its aftermath, predicting how water flows through a city’s potable water distribution system pipes, can help protect public health from lead, Legionella and other health risks. A “hydraulic model” is a computer program, usually based on EPANET software, that allows a user to obtain scientific insights useful for decision-making (e.g., see EPA presentation slides from January 2017).
Creating a complete hydraulic model for a
city like Flint requires months to years of effort, detailed local knowledge, and
true expertise in software and hydraulics. However, using a hydraulic model is something most undergraduate
engineering students can learn in a day or two. EPA regularly hosts workshops
how to use EPANET hydraulic models.
Thus, when Dr. McElmurry first introduced himself to Edwards and to NIH a few weeks later (October 7-10, 2015), with a written statement he had “a complete hydraulic model of Flint’s drinking water system” due to “5 years” of work in Flint (see Table below), he was asserting a claim of extraordinary intellectual property and expertise. Mountains were moved by Edwards, the State of Michigan and others, based on McElmurry’s completely false claim, to give McElmurry funding and power that could be used to benefit residents of Flint and assist the disaster response. This put the WSU/McElmurry funding and power grab snowball into motion. Below is an updated timeline of McElmurry’s ever changing claims about Flint hydraulic models.
from McElmurry to Edwards: “I have done a fair amount of work on Pb exposure and have
worked in Flint in the past. As a result of this past work, I have a working
hydraulic model of the Flint drinking water system.”
from McElmurry to Faust:“Kasey,
I took a look at the epanet <hydraulic> model of Flint you used for
your dissertation. It doesn’t look like it was complete, at least the one you
sent me. Do you have a complete model of the system?”
Faust to McElmurry:“Yes I do-
I’ll have to find it on my hard drive when I get home…….Is GIs okay with
you?” <FAUST FORWARDS MCELMURRY COMPLETE HYDRAULIC
From McElmurry’s NIH
Proposal: “Through previous work by the PI in Flint, the
project team has unique access to the Flint water distribution system
details..and has initiated the <hydraulic> modeling effort.”
McElmurry email to City of Flint: “…it doesn’t make sense for us to continue to develop our EPANET <hydraulic
Flint> model….” because EPA is creating one
McElmurry to co-author on what became the peer reviewed PNAS paper: “Without the <Flint hydraulic> water model..I am left
with..the <January 21 2015> water age map developed by LAN… (of course..<our
work> could be improved greatly with a full hydraulic model)…”
Masten emails McElmurry about what became the PNAS Paper: “EPA has the hydraulic model running-if you
could get that…you would have a far better estimate…” of water age. McElmurry
would not wait to get the EPA hydraulic model.
Sworn Testimony of Dr. Larry Reynolds
in Lyon, on why he recommended McElmurry to lead FACHEP:“ I recommended
Doctor Shawn McElmurry, an environmental engineer at Wayne State because he
had done hydraulic modeling for the city of Flint I think within the past
PNAS Peer Reviewed Paper Description Falsely Implies It
Used the Best Available EPA hydraulic model: ..“we develop a monitor-to-parcel assignment
algorithm that leverages best available information on parcel
occupancy/vacancy, residence time of water (i.e. water age), and the Flint
water distribution system pipe network”
McElmurry Presentation at Michigan State University (MSU) Seminar: Provided
first indication, that McElmurry has finally obtained the EPA hydraulic model.
written response to LARA Investigator about his false claims back in October
very confusing what information was available. I had initially thought the
City of Flint provided Dr. Abraham, Kasey Faust and me with a fully
functioning model of the Flint water distribution system. ..This
understanding turned out to be incorrect.”
State University written claim to Edwards:“McElmurry had no hydraulic …model” in 2015
McElmurry sworn statements about slides WSU is withholding,
from an October 2017 presentation. I “was provided the initial <hydraulic> model pursuant to a
memorandum of understanding with the City of Flint. After receiving the
model, I modified conditions (input), selected parameters that were reported
by the model (output), and presented same at the Symposium.”
Obtained indirectly from Edwards, who it was given to with a caveat it should not be used “for anything scientific.” FACHEP relied on it for drafts of February 2018 FACHEP PNAS paper, and probably the final version of the paper.
To test the loss of chlorine hypothesis, we develop a monitor-to-parcel assignment algorithm that leverages best available information on parcel occupancy/vacancy, residence time of water (i.e. water age), and the Flint water distribution system pipe network (see Fig. S2).
Did FACHEP use the Faust or the EPA hydraulic model? Incredibly, after spending millions and millions of dollars of NIH and FACHEP funding, we were sickened to discover that it appears the answer is: neither one.
Internal email discussions of McElmurry and first author on the PNAS paper, Dr. Zahran, openly acknowledge the serious problems with using that erroneous 2015 data obtained from Dr. Edwards. McElmurry suggests that using this data is “a reasonable approach given the limited data we have available (2/13/2017),” and Zahran admits this is really “the best possible work around in the absence of data required to develop a defensible water model (6/22/2017).” In other words, McElmurry/Zahran know, they are proceeding with a scientific analysis on the PNAS paper without a “defensible hydraulic model.” This is indefensible.
“LAN…developed preliminary water age results throughout the entire system. ..However, LAN has also identified several issues affecting the model that require further attention to allow for usable and reliable results. Revised results will be provided when the hydraulic model has been fully updated….in Sept-Oct, 2015.”
This further reinforces the fact that the January 2015 Flint water age map was known to be inaccurate in mid- 2015.
Dr. Masten (MSU), who was a co-author on the PNAS paper, was completely unaware that Dr. Edwards was the source of the January 21, 2015 datafile, or that the city said it should never be used for any scientific analysis. But Dr. Masten determined on her own, that the manuscript was “seriously flawed” due to obvious errors in how it handled “water age.”
On August 5, 2017, Zahran admitted to Masten, that “We were aware of this weakness – that is, reliance on weak water age information….” After Dr. Masten’s stated that they should obtain and use the EPA hydraulic model (available January 2017) to make a “far better estimate of water age,” the authors refused. Therefore, the written claim in the PNAS paper that FACHEP was using the “best available information” for their analysis, appears to be false. The information they were using, was not acceptable for a scientific analysis back in 2015, and it certainly should not have been used for a PNAS scientific paper published February 2018.
On December 8, 2017, Dr. Masten explicitly asked whether the water age data from the erroneous January 21, 2015 “conceptual map,” was used as a scientific basis for the PNAS paper analysis. The authors refused to directly answer her question and also would not use the EPA hydraulic model. Dr. Masten courageously withdrew her name from the PNAS paper as a co-author.
HYDRAULIC MODEL SLIDES ARE MCELMURRY’s
When the 2018
PNAS paper was published, WSU celebrated their FACHEP crybully hero narrative with
an unusual press
“This abandonment of basic human and civil rights by those who once had the public trust led to water quality, safety and access issues that endangered the public health. In the midst of this maelstrom, a group of engineers along with medical, public health and social scientists assembled a research team <FACHEP> to pursue answers to problems that others would rather leave unexamined. The authors of these papers….affirmed the higher purpose of science — to expand knowledge and serve the common good.”
Ever since, WSU has made extraordinary efforts, to block better public understanding about this PNAS paper, and the nature of McElmurry’s repeated misrepresentations about the hydraulic model through FOIA. Here is an update on recent revelatory obfuscation.
that 2 of the slides they are fighting to keep hidden, are of McElmurry’s hydraulic
model results. In a sworn affidavit April 10, 2019, McElmurry writes (see page
28 of 73, point 15; emphasis added):
15. Slides 22 and 23 contain results of my manipulations of a <Flint hydraulic> model simulation showing the flow of water within the City of Flint and the pipe network that constitutes the municipal drinking water system within the City. I was provided the initial model pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the City of Flint. After receiving the model, I modified conditions (input), selected parameters that were reported by the model (output), and presented same at the Symposium.
WSU is now claiming that using a Flint hydraulic model that someone else created, constitutes McElmurry’s “intellectual property.” This is consistent with McElmurry’s past practice, of changing a border on a slide taken from Flintwaterstudy and presenting it as his own work. And we wonder, which hydraulic model was being used in the withheld slides, since as far as we know, only Dr. Faust’s model was available to him at that time? Did he give appropriate credit to whoever created the model, or was he once again, “confused,” implying it was his model?
PROTECTING THE SECURITY AND SAFETY OF THE RESIDENTS OF FLINT?In response to Dr. Edwards’ offer to sign a non-disclosure agreement for permission to see the slides McElmurry already presented publicly, assuaging McElmurry’s intellectual property claim, WSU created a new argument. WSU stated that releasing the slides could endanger Flint residents to a terrorist attack (page 23 of 73):
…exemption exists in order to protect…capabilities and plans for responding to a violation of the Michigan anti-terrorism act…Once released, even on a limited basis,..the City of Flint’s ability to protect the safety and security of its residents is compromised. …slides 22 and 23 are subject to protection for this additional reason.
Interestingly, EPA posts slides of its Flint hydraulic model simulations on the internet and freely shares Flint hydraulic model presentations with anyone requesting them. We can only imagine, what on earth, could McElmurry have entered into the hydraulic model, developed by someone else, that created “top secret” intellectual property that could wreak havoc in the hands of terrorists plotting to attack Flint? And if it was “top secret,” why did McElmurry present it publicly, at a graduate research symposium? By their own definition, they’ve clearly committed a major security breach.
Dr. ROY HYDRAULIC MODEL FOIA SAGA. For more than a year, we have been trying to get emails about possible conflicting statements McElmurry made to his WSU colleagues, related to Faust’s hydraulic model (see details here). The latest excuse to Dr. Roy? The cost to produce a few weeks of emails from October 2015 and two other documents, would be $6,710.65.
DR. McELMURRY’s TRUE HYDRAULIC MODELING EXPERTISE REVEALED
If this story from our reliable source proves to be true, it would a fitting ending to this tragi-comedic real life story of McElmurry’s hydraulic model. The same person who falsely claimed to have created extraordinary intellectual property in the form of a “complete Flint hydraulic model” back in October 2015, but who then likely used flawed “water age” data from a January 2015 “conceptual model” via Dr. Edwards for a PNAS peer reviewed paper, finally attends an EPA workshop in September 2018 geared towards helping novices learn the basics of how to use a hydraulic model.
Defendant Wayne State University submits the following Objections and Responses to Plaintiff’s First Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents:
and Document Requests
Regarding the power point presentation “The Challenge of Mitigating Risk Associated With Aging Drinking Water Infrastructure in Shrinking Cities: Lessons Learned from Flint” given on October 27, 2017, which was part of Plaintiff’s third FOIA request of March 3, 2018.
Question: Please provide the names and identifying information for all security personnel who controlled and/or monitored attendees to ensure that they did not photograph or otherwise record the presentation.
Response: Defendant has no knowledge or information about any security personnel who controlled and/or monitored attendees to this event to ensure that they did not photograph or otherwise record the presentation. In further answer as to Dr. McElmurry’s presentation, Defendant states that Dr. McElmurry verbally announced to his audience that no photographing of his slides or recording of his presentation was allowed. No attendee objected to Dr. McElmurry’s announcement; nor did Dr. McElmurry observe any attendee photographing or recording his presentation or slides.
Question: Please provide any materials provided to attendees informing them of any nondisclosure imposition placed on them at this event.
Response: With the exception of Dr. McElmurry’s verbal notification regarding his presentation, as stated in response to g. above, Defendant has no knowledge or information about any materials provided to attendees informing them of any non disclosure imposition placed on them at this event. In further answer as to Dr. McElmurry’s presentation, Defendant states that Dr. McElmurry’s intent in presenting at this symposium corresponded to the articulated purposes of this symposium, one of which was “… to share [his] experiences and identify collaborative opportunities.” See Exhibit One. Further, in participating as a speaker at this symposium, it was not Dr. McElmurry’s intent to publish his research “in a forum intended to convey the information to the academic community”. In conjunction with his purpose and intent, Dr. McElmurry verbally announced to his audience that no photographing of his slides or recording of his presentation was allowed. No attendee objected to Dr. McElmurry’s announcement; nor did Dr. McElmurry observe any attendee photographing or recording his presentation or slides.
Question: Please provide the recording and/or text of any verbal notification given to attendees notifying them of any nondisclosure requirements or policy associated with attending this event.
Response: Defendant has no knowledge or information regarding any verbal notifications of nondisclosure requirements or policy associated with attending this event. In further answer as to Dr. McElmurry’s verbal notification regarding his presentation, Dr. McElmurry did not record his presentation or his verbal notification, and to Dr. McElmurry’s knowledge, no one else recorded his presentation or verbal notification.
Question: Please provide copies of any nondisclosure agreements associated with this event.
Response: Defendant has no knowledge or information regarding any nondisclosure agreements associated with this event.
Question: You have stated that “none of the slides remained on screen long enough for anyone to be able to retain the information presented in slides 22, 23, 25 and 33.” Please state with specificity how long these slides remained on screen.
Response: Defendant is only able to estimate the time devoted to each of the referenced slides. Defendant states that Dr. McElmurry was given a total of 60 minutes for his presentation, and his presentation contained 42 slides. Dr. McElmurry estimates that he used approximately 15 minutes of his allotted time for his introduction, his verbal request to not record or photograph his presentation, and for answering questions from the audience at the end of his presentation. As a result, 45 minutes remained for the presentation of 42 slides, averaging one minute for each slide. Thus, Defendant estimates that slides 22, 23, 25 and 33 were on the screen approximately one minute each.
Question: In regards to the previous question, please state how it was determined what length of time was sufficient for the audience to see the slides, yet not “retain the information”.
Response: Defendant states that given the detailed nature of the redacted slides in his presentation and the limited time available to view each slide, Dr. McElmurry determined that, while individuals could retain the major points and thematic messages he was conveying, there was little or no risk that they would be able to retain the details contained in slides 22, 23, 25 and 33.
An investigative science reporting
series by Flintwaterstudy.org
NOTE FOR THE QUEASY:
This blog series involves heart-wrenching whistleblowing—the sort that comes from alleging misconduct of your own professional colleagues for actions harming the public and others. We cannot imagine that any reader is more sickened than we are, by having to air “dirty laundry” that includes sharing personal emails and discussing unethical behavior. But given the continued damage that would arise from remaining silent, we feel morally obligated to present evidence against FACHEP leadership in relation to:
– falsifying qualifications to win a multi-million dollar sole source grant during a federal emergency
– literally making a felony criminal case, out of legitimate criticism directed at their unprofessional work, which is best characterized as narcissistic victimization (a.k.a. “crybullying”)
– spreading malicious rumors, to ingratiate themselves with Flint residents at the expense of others
– violating the ASCE second canon, harming others through their incompetence
– wrongly taking credit for research ideas and data, belonging to others (e.g., Dr. Faust and Dr. Masten)
Please also be aware that FACHEP supporters have been FOIAing Flintwaterstudy, Dr. Edwards, Dr. Masten (MSU) and Dr. Maya Trotz (President AEESP) since Fall 2017. In fact, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, emails of 40+ members of our Flintwaterstudy team have been subpoenaed, for dozens of Michigan lawsuits and criminal cases that we are not even party to. Emails from the FOIA have been misrepresented by FACHEP supporters on social media to denigrate Virginia Tech undergraduate students, Dr. Sid Roy, Dr. Masten and Dr. Edwards. FACHEP faculty have even smeared Dr. Trotz as “unethical.” Dr. Edwards has filed a defamation lawsuit, which is partly related to actions of FACHEP faculty and their supporters as described herein. The facts presented in this series shed light on how such an unthinkable tragedy could unfold.
An investigative science reporting series by Flintwaterstudy.org
We first conceived of this blog series as an
exposé on the perverse incentive culture of modern academia, as viewed through
the lens of FACHEP-instigated felony trials The
State of Michigan vs Eden Wells or Nick
Lyon. Following the individual strands of evidence has revealed a wicked
web of academic deceit and vanity.
For the 3000+ Flintwaterstudy readers who open our webpage each week and who made it this far, you are probably wondering when this unfolding nightmare will end. Well, we estimate there are about 3-5 more chapters before we make it to a critical juncture in mid-2017, when we finally decided that it would be unethical for us to remain in denial about FACHEP’s nefarious mode of operation. Then, of course, there will be the actual Wells and Lyon trials.
The most frequent question from readers, is “How on earth was FACHEP allowed to get away with such behavior?” In Parts 4 and 7 we detailed how Dr. Nancy Love (UM) instigated irresponsible rumors about bacteria and dangers of bathing in Flint. When called upon to correct that and other mistakes, FACHEP faculty unscrupulously refused to do so, by exploiting the vulnerable position of the relief agencies (i.e., their funding sponsor, MDHHS, and to a lesser extent MDEQ, CDC, EPA and GCHD).
We remind everyone that FACHEP was funded by the State of MI, to fill a vacuum of trust created by a failure of government at all levels—the word trust was used 22 times in the FACHEP Phase 2 report, affirming that primary mandate. But FACHEP also knew that they could bump the hair trigger with the prosecutorial laser beam ever-focused on MDHHS project manager Dr. Wells’ forehead, whenever they felt like it, and seemed to relish behaving like insolent junior high students with a substitute teacher. Dr. Wells’ only hope of keeping FACHEP on task and conducting themselves as a responsible partner for public health, was to “plead” appeals to their nobler motives.
Consider that the fiascos of McElmurry’s “low chlorine” false alarms, Dr. Love’s Shigella rumors, and FACHEP’s strategic maligning of anyone standing in their way, would normally have caused termination for incompetence and unprofessional behavior. However, this was not a normal situation. With each FACHEP misstep, they grew increasingly bold in evading responsibility by exploiting a presumption of agency guilt in any dispute. Astonishingly, they even began lashing out with moral indignation, pontification about engineering codes of ethics, and crybullying, rather than swallow the most sugar-coated legitimate criticism.
With the obvious exception of Dr. Masten, any attempt to appeal to nobler motives went nowhere. We learned that firsthand, as we repeatedly tried to respectfully engage with FACHEP team members through normal channels to no avail. And now we disclose documents that demonstrate behind FACHEP’s unscientific behavior, that there was actually a method to the madness. In particular, McElmurry’s appointment of Dr. Laura Sullivan and Ben Pauli (Kettering University) as designated community trust builders and communicators, would prove to be a masterstroke of devious management strategy.
Dr. Pauli decided to use Flint as a living laboratory, to put some of his ill-conceived theories into practice, casting himself as the badass political anarchist rebel professor of the FWC post-federal emergency. Dr. Pauli’s high jinks might be laughable, except we still fail to find any humor whatsoever, in manipulating people and the public trust for personal gain in the wake of a disaster.
In June 2018, Pauli emailed
several faculty around the country a draft chapter of his book Flint Fights Back, to support FACHEP and
friends ever escalating campaign to destroy Dr. Edwards’ professional reputation.
Future blogs will expose Dr. Pauli’s intellectual dishonesty and backstabbing cowardice
in that endeavor, but herein, we cite the book chapter and verse as obtained by
FOIA, because it unabashedly reveals FACHEP’s late 2016 game plan.
Around that time, contrasting
perspectives about the safety of the water were being put forth by FACHEP, relative
to those of Flintwaterstudy and the relief agencies. Flintwaterstudy was always
cautious to avoid any claim of absolute water safety, as illustrated by the
following representative statement about bathing:
In contrast, in late-2016 FACHEP began making absolute statements about water safety (see below), apparently to distinguish their message from Dr. Edwards, and eventually support Dr. Love’s emerging new POU filter manifesto boil water “gold standard.” Only a team of Dunning-Kruger potable water experts like FACHEP would claim it is possible to achieve “100% confidence that all water in Flint is safe to drink for all people” or the equivalent of being sure “that the tap water in Flint is safe in ALL neighborhoods for ALL residents.” But as Dr. Pauli proudly disclosed, FACHEP would be willing to do that, and much more, to “arouse activist sympathies.”
Well, it turned out that there was yet another dimension to FACHEP’s plotting; specifically, they had committed themselves to “winning over the activists” allied with Mr. Scott Smith (formerly of Water Defense). At that time, Mr. Smith was highly adversarial to Dr. Edwards and Flintwaterstudy, and was supporting claims the water was not improving. Pauli noted that FACHEP wanted to cynically exploit that dynamic to their advantage. Flint activist Melissa Mays was already collaborating with FACHEP’s Dr. Laura Sullivan (Kettering), as illustrated by their “crybully” counterattack on the agencies “wash your hands” campaign back in October 2016. But FACHEP wanted Smith’s public backing.
At the recommendation of Melissa Mays and a few other residents, Mr. Smith engaged with Dr. Pauli in a 3-hour conversation on or about November 30th, 2016. As we have since reconciled with Mr. Smith, we asked what they discussed. According to Smith, Pauli stated that FACHEP faculty were soon going to inform the public that Dr. Edwards had been “bought,” filtered Flint water was dangerous, and the State of MI was manipulating Edwards’ test data, press releases and conclusions. At the time, Mr. Smith was rightly skeptical, but he was very pleased to have new FACHEP allies in his confrontation with Dr. Edwards.
In the book chapter, Mr. Pauli does not provide specifics of that conversation with Smith, but did write that obtaining Smith’s endorsement was “premised largely on his perception of my <Pauli’s> trustworthiness,” and acknowledged that Smith somehow believed “our team <FACHEP> was picking up where he <Smith> was leaving off.” Ultimately, FACHEP did indeed, pick up where Mr. Smith left off, but with millions in State research funding and involvement of over 20 PhD faculty, they would destroy public trust on much grander scale than Mr. Smith—without any significant repercussions or apology for doing so to the present day.
ROLLING OUT THE FACHEP NARRATIVE ABOUT DR. EDWARDS
But for individuals like Dr. Love and her conniving FACHEP collaborators, such facts were no impediment to a rumor campaign. Edwards first starting hearing whispers FACHEP claimed he was “bought” and untruthful around the time Love and McElmurry’s were first visiting Flint homes in summer 2016. The first public written comment suggesting FACHEP might be originating that type of rumor came in an October 19, 2016 social media post from Dr. Laura Sullivan:
I’m so relieved to work with someone who isn’t afraid to tell the truth, in spite of great pressures not to. Shawn, Ben Pauli, Paul, Nancy, Susan, and so many other talented faculty from Wayne State, UofM, MSU, Henry Ford Hospital, and Kettering demonstrate that we can’t be manipulated and we can’t be bought.
The agencies that should have been attending to this <recovery effort> have epically failed. But hard-headed, tough-hearted researchers from Michigan universities are, I can tell you first hand, setting aside everything including their own families to dig deeply into the concerns raised by activists …<and these heroic> scientists push hard against attempts to minimize issues of importance
We can’t help but agree
with a characterization of FACHEP faculty as “hard-headed” and “tough-hearted,”
especially in the context of being “stubborn” and “insensitive.”
Then, on December 2nd, in the aftermath of Dr. Pauli’s meeting with Mr. Smith and immediately after the VT press conference reporting data on “improving” water in Flint, Dr. Sullivan finally lashed out against “a man” who could only be Dr. Edwards:
A man can’t carry the whole truth while his are hands are clenched around money, nor can he deliver the whole truth while his eyes are fixed on fame. Let the debate continue regarding whether or not the water in flint is safe. (12/2)
Notice how Dr. Sullivan’s statement perfectly captured FACHEP’s strategy described in Pauli’s book chapter and in the conversation recalled by Mr. Smith. It not only falsely distinguished FACHEP’s message about water safety from that of Dr. Edwards—he said the water was improving and never claimed it was “safe.” But it also characterized Edwards as “bought” and “fixed on fame.”
In other words, Dr.
Love’s words that damaged Edwards back in 2011, were once again employed
to discredit Edwards with Flint residents in 2016. Needless to say, the FACHEP rumors
were highly effective, successfully instigating outrage amongst some residents,
who naively assumed that PhD FACHEP faculty would not lie so blatantly. Such “New
Anarchist” FACHEP tactics were be deployed over and over again, first against
the agencies, and from this point forward against Flintwaterstudy.
Mays: “Edwards thinks Flint is full of dumb, scared, dirty people….. They need to stop funneling money to paid off experts who will push their lie…The VT studies are funded by the state and the EPA so they are going with a narrative that our water is so much better….They didn’t even talk about Wayne State…. <Wayne State = FACHEP feels> Just like we do, lied about and pushed to the side. Because they <FACHEP> have evidence that goes against what the state is trying to sell people.”
Scott Smith: Karma, Truth, and Justice will prevail for the residents of Flint as we have facts that are Irrefutable and cannot be comprised by Gov Snyder and his taxpayer funded minions.
Imagine, all the relief agencies work for 14 months, the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements, and things were actually getting worse every day! Brilliant. Analogous to fire-fighter arson, thank god the crackerjack FACHEP team was on the scene, to heroically douse the flames they had created themselves.
But FOX did not know that, and ran a story December 5th, 2016, with the title “Is the Flint Water Crisis Getting Worse?,” citing Mays and foreshadowing FACHEP’s counter-narrative. Edwards subsequently shared several conversations with dejected agency relief workers, who realized that with such unscientific messaging, Flint residents would never know who to trust. Our reading of Dr. Pauli’s book and FACHEP’s actions, suggests that was the clear intent, as did what occurred next.
DR. MCELMURRY: I WILL NOT AGREE FLINT WATER IS MUCH IMPROVED
Dr. Edwards was completely
unaware that FACHEP was suddenly courting Mr. Smith and his allies, or that their
about the safety of the water was going to be different from that of Edwards,”
or that they were in the midst of executing an attack against him. In fact, up to that point, Edwards had
numerous conversations with FACHEP’s McElmurry, Sullivan and Pauli, in which
they had characterized both Mr. Smith and Ms. Mays as misguided and dangerous.
For instance, in a June 30, 2018, Dr. Pauli privately emailed a number of university faculty, that “it is perfectly legitimate for residents to have criticisms of Melissa. I myself have criticisms of her. I wish she wouldn’t be so reckless about posting things… and I wish that she would admit a mistake once in a while rather than giving her critics even more ammunition by aggressively defending everything she does.”
Both Dr. Sullivan and Dr. McElmurry had encouraged Flintwaterstudy to publicly
confront Mr. Smith in May 2016. Dr.
Sullivan even wrote encouraging and thankful comments on the webpage of our
blogs doing so, such as “Thank
you for your consistent and accurate information” and “Thank
you for setting the record straight, Marc (see below).”
And let’s not forget that
McElmurry, enthusiastically agreed to help refute unfounded allegations about dangerous
levels of chloroform reported by Water Defense, at a May 2016 press conference hosted
by VT in Flint (Watch McElmurry from
However, that was all back in May when McElmurry and Sullivan wanted to present themselves as responsible researchers to get FACHEP funded. Now that the millions of dollars of grants were secured, in Dr. Pauli’s own written words, they needed to prove “<FACHEP> could accept money from the state while retaining its independence,” and win over a group of “people who saw the state as their number-one enemy.”
…<FACHEP> certainly did not want to oversell the <bacteria> risks and cause unnecessary anxiety in people who had plenty of it to deal with already.
Our Comment: Then why did FACHEP repeatedly do so?
As we debated the finer nuances of risk communication internally,
Our Comment: Is that how FACHEP viewed their false public rumors about Shigella and fights with the relief agencies?
Marc Edwards contacted McElmurry in early December with a request. Based on VT’ s latest findings, he was prepared to declare Flint water as safe as municipal water in other cities and wanted the FACHEP team to sign off on a statement to that effect.
Our Comment: The emails unambiguously prove Dr. Edwards only asked McElmurry for a truthful statement that Flint water was “much improved,” in response to the baseless claims that Flint water was getting worse every day (probably with FACHEP’s blessing)
McElmurry told Edwards that a sweeping statement about Flint’s water quality would be premature and declined to endorse the proposed statement. Although Edwards was clearly already positioning his narrative about the water to undercut FACHEP’s work…
Our Comment: Edwards presented scientific data at the press conference showing Flint water was improving, in support of that of the relief agencies, and had no “narrative”’ beyond that data. As Pauli reveals in his book, it was actually FACHEP who was positioning a narrative to undercut Edwards. And when asked for actual scientific data point blank in an email, characteristically, McElmurry could not provide it. To this day we cannot find data supporting FACHEP’s position.
It was plain that all of the business about bacteria, just like Smith’s warnings about DBPs, was starting to interfere with his <Edwards> attempts to bring the story of his intervention in Flint to a triumphant conclusion.
Our Comment: What triumphant conclusion? Edwards stated that Flint water was improving as expected, and he reminded residents to keep using filters/bottled water. Is that the story of triumph that so threatened FACHEP?
And if there was any doubt amongst readers that the above malicious FACHEP rumors might not have been circulated, the very day after McElmurry responded to Edwards’ email, FACHEP’s Dr. Sullivan posted a picture on FACEBOOK (December 9, 2016) with text written on a pipe full of holes that stated “He says Flint pipes are healed and Flint water is safe…but there are holes in his evidence.” We can again see in all its glory, what we were starting to believe was FACHEP’s guiding motto in action: “Our rumor, your problem.”
DR. PAULI LIVE: ON “TRUTH” IN A PROCESS OF POLITICAL STRUGGLE
On March 14, 2017, in a presentation at Lawrence Technical University, Dr. Pauli hit upon some of the key FACHEP attack narratives described in this blog post. Pauli publicly implied Edwards was bought by the State of MI but FACHEP was not. That Edwards was “collaborating” with the State, while on the other hand FACHEP was “collaborating” with the State (that’s right). That Edwards did not care about bacteria while FACHEP did care. That “<Edwards> message has changed in many ways since coming to town in 2015” because he “sold out.” We also appreciate how Dr. Pauli “is focused on…less the truth of the crisis with a capital T, and more of the struggle around the crisis.” And that “sometimes when you are engaged in a process of struggle, truth is your ally, and sometimes it isn’t.” We have certainly seen how FACHEP responded when the truth was not their ally–watch and enjoy.
MS. MAYS AND FACHEP RESPONSE TO THE VT PRESS CONFERENCE
Mays and FACHEP events were planned to counter the December 2nd 2016
VT press conference, which had apparently created an existential threat by presenting
data that Flint water was “improving.” The Melissa Mays (FACHEP friend) press
conference was to be held December 13th, 2016, followed a day later by
a FACHEP public meeting on December 14th, 2016 at the Flint library.
As for the FACHEP press conference that was scheduled for December 14th, Dr. Pauli explains:
In the lead up to our first community meeting in mid-December 2016, at which we planned to roll out our preliminary findings directly to residents, Smith called me almost daily as he tried to feel out whether he could safely get behind FACHEP. …declaring his support for FACHEP was a bit of a gamble, premised largely on his perception of my trustworthiness. Nevertheless, it was a gamble he decided to take, and he began the delicate process of convincing his allies, particularly Melissa Mays and the plumbers, to attend our meeting with open minds. They did indeed attend, but when they arrived skepticism was etched so deeply into their faces that I could tell we would have our work cut out for us winning them over.
Now, given that Ms. Mays had already publicized FACHEP’s narrative about “lies” and “being pushed to the side” by the State of Michigan in her social media posting of December 2, 2016, it seems that at least part of Pauli’s story is fictionalized to boost his anarchist professor credentials.
Fascinatingly, McElmurry provided a completely different characterization of the scheduled public meeting to their State of MI sponsor (i.e., the “number one enemy”) agencies. McElmurry emailed them on December 12th to let them know that the forthcoming meeting at the library would essentially be a non-event, completely contradicting Dr. Pauli’s written account that it was a planned “roll out of preliminary findings directly to residents.” McElmurry wrote Dr. Wells:
“we will not be providing and <sic> new FACHEP results or information beyond what we have shared with you and has already been released… we have not invited media and we are not issuing a press release or statement. I’m happy to provide slides shared at the meeting once they are complete. I wanted to give you a heads up that this is happening.”
Thus, the public health agencies were completely unprepared for what would hit them next. How far would Dr. Love go, to turn activist hatred for the State of MI, into support for FACHEP?