The Saga of the Slides: Highlights of Wayne State University Response

Due to high interest in the 4 slides that were withheld by WSU from our FOIA, we provide the following response from WSU.

Defendant Wayne  State  University submits the following Objections and Responses to Plaintiff’s First Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents:

Interrogatories 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.

Documents provided by Dr. Marc Edwards

FACHEP vs. The People of the State of Michigan: Part VIII: When Love turned to Hate

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.

Cast of Key Characters Parts 1-7

Name Institution Role
Dr. Shawn McElmurryWSU – Civil Engineering FACHEP’s Founder, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Marcus ZervosWSU – Infectious DiseaseFACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Paul KilgoreWSU – PharmacyFACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Nancy LoveUM – Civil EngineeringDr. McElmurry’s Enabler/Defender; Water Filter Research, Engineering Ethics Pontificator
Dr. Yanna LambrinidouParents for Non-Toxic AlternativesFriend of FACHEP, Adversary of Flintwaterstudy
 
Dr. Eden WellsMI Chief Medical OfficerAccused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
Mr. Nick LyonMI Health Chief Accused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
 
Marc EdwardsVT – Civil EngineeringFlintwaterstudy leader – Author of this blog Series; Potable Water Legionella, Lead, Ethics Expertise
Dr. Amy Pruden VT – Civil EngineeringVT Flint research co-PI; Potable Water Legionella and Microbiology Expertise
Dr. Kasey FaustUT – Civil EngineeringPhD work in Flint 2013-2015 on Shrinking Cities; Dr. McElmurry was on her PhD Committee
Dr. Sue MastenMSU – Civil EngineeringFACHEP Member and Whistleblower; Drinking Water Treatment Expertise

PART 1: Dr. SHAWN McELMURRY

CONSIDERING THE UNIMAGINABLE-DID McELMURRY COMPLETELY FABRICATE HIS STORY OF WORK IN FLINT?

PART 2: FACHEP’S TROUBLED BIRTH

PART 3: FACHEP MAKES A MOCKERY OF ETHICAL CODES—THE WHISTLEBLOWER FROM MSU

PART 4: LOVE THE ALARMIST:  THE REAL STORY ON SHIGELLA AND WATER FILTERS (Pre-FWC to August 12, 2016)

PART 5: TRIAL BY ORDEAL WITHIN AN ACADEMIC BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES

PART 6:  UNFAIR COMPETITION: WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY AND VEGANS DO IT BETTER

Part 7: LOVE THE ALARMIST:  THE REAL STORY ON SHIGELLA AND WATER FILTERS (August 12 TO December 2, 2016)


PART 8: WHEN LOVE TURNED TO HATE

(December 2, 2016 – December 13, 2016) 

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.

FACHEP STRATEGY AS REVEALED BY DR. BEN PAULI

Dr. Ben Pauli arrived in Flint June 2015 to work as an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Kettering University. During his PhD work at Rutgers Pauli taught numerous courses including Gender, Social Justice and Marxist Theory, and his research on topics including “Reinvention of Anarchist Tactics in the Twentieth Century” was published in forums like the Journal for the Study of Radicalism. His 2014 dissertation “Modern Rebels: The Political Thought of the New Anarchists,” sought to raise “anarchist thought to the level of intellectual respectability,” with a “hope to inject the New Anarchism’s unique perspective back into political consciousness.”  

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.

Dr. Pauli wrote that he was “trying to integrate myself into the <Flint> activist scene” and “boost my credibility,” when it struck him that:

there were two things the team <FACHEP> needed to prove…first, that it could accept money from the state while retaining its independence, and second, that it had something to say about the water that was worth hearing.” Further, “..what really began to arouse activists’ sympathies was their burgeoning realization that FACHEP’ s message about the safety of the water was going to be different from that of Edwards.”

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: 

It’s important to understand that bathing is never completely a “risk free” activity.  However, the dangers of not bathing are also significant, …<Based on all the data>, we support the current U.S. EPA guidance that indicates bathing or showering in unfiltered Flint water is not riskier than in other cities. (4/25/2016)

Through decades of experience we were humbled to learn that every recommendation carries risks, repercussions and uncertainties. Afterall, bottled water contains potentially harmful plasticizers and bacteria, boiling water or raising the temperature set point of hot water heaters could kill bacteria but create a dangerous scalding hazard, and even carrying cases of water from one place to another could cause bodily injury. We would never claim any water is completely “safe,” and always acknowledge that immunocompromised individuals should consult and follow advice of their physician no matter where they live. 

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, toarouse activist sympathies.

VT PRESS CONFERENCE: “FLINT WATER IS IMPROVING”

The FACHEP master plan kicked into high gear immediately after a December 2nd, 2016 Virginia  Tech press conference that received national coverage and is archived online. Our cautiously optimistic message was that 14 months of outstanding relief work by the disaster response team and the investments of hundreds of millions in engineering improvements, were starting to produce expected improvements in the water.

We stated that Flint “water conditions continue to improve” but “residents should continue to use bottled water and lead filters until otherwise notified by the EPA or the state.” The media correctly reported the appropriate content and tone of our carefully crafted press conference message and the need to keep using filters or bottled water. What could go possibly go wrong?

Dec 2016 Press conference slide comparing tap water at McLaren hospital faucet.

Well, it turned out that there was yet another dimension to FACHEP’s plotting; specifically, they had committed themselves towinning 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

Still scarred by damage from Dr. Love’s allegations in his D.C. lead crisis battle (i.e., writing EPA that Edwards paying for humanitarian research out of his own pocket was a financial “conflict of interest”), Edwards took unusual steps to ensure there was also no valid basis for such assertions in his Flint work.  Specifically, VT was reimbursed for the months of time Dr. Edwards spent on the relief effort (because he could not teach or conduct other research), but Edwards did not receive any extra salary for that work.  

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.

On October 28th, 2016, Dr. Sullivan’s FACHEP hero narrative went further

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.”

A bizarre irony here is that the FACHEP faculty were liberally accepting extra salary from the State of Michigan and others for their Flint work, and at this point, we feel obligated to painfully remind everyone, that they never lifted a finger to productively help Flint residents until such funding was available. And it was public knowledge that Dr. Edwards was scrupulously avoiding such financial conflicts of interest and had once again paid for much of the Flint work from his own discretionary funds and pocket.

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.

FRIENDS OF FACHEP PILE ON 

The campaign to win over Smith and his activist supporters, began paying off with brutal FACEBOOK postings by FACHEP friends Melissa Mays and Mr. Smith on December 2nd, immediately after the VT press conference:

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.

Tellingly, Pauli emailed Mr. Smith, just 30 minutes before the above posting on FACEBOOK about “taxpayer funded minions” in reference to Flintwaterstudy, and Pauli also emailed Smith once again a few hours after the posting in relation to a phone call between Mr. Smith and Dr. McElmurry. It certainly seems Dr. Pauli was so pleased with Mr. Smith, that he was arranging a direct call with the big boss man of FACHEP. Pauli elsewhere wrote that about his satisfaction that Smith “praised our <FACHEP’s> work effusively on social media” (text to be presented in a future blog).

After the FACHEP-instigated backlash, Edwards then received an email from a FOXNEWS reporter, claiming FACHEP friend Melissa Mays was asserting Flint water was actually getting worse every day. Now that was a message about water safety that differed from Dr. Edwards data.

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. 

To support her claim, Ms. Mays distributed a letter from VT, for sampling results that we later learned Mays had falsified by improperly sampling a basement hose bib (i.e., Mays claimed termed it was “sampling her water meter”). Samples collected from hose bibs are improper because they have notoriously high water lead, and doing so violates written EPA and VT instructions to sample only a bathroom or kitchen tap . 

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 “message 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 24:10-25:10).  

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.”

On December 8th, 2016, Dr. Edwards emailed McElmurry, asking if he would publicly agree, that Flint water was “much improved” after the switch back to Detroit water and 14 months of relief efforts. Shockingly, McElmurry wrote that he would not agree to endorse that statement; furthermore, he did not answer a request by Dr. Edwards to discuss FACHEP data that might support his reasoning.  Of course, we now see that McElmurry’s refusal had little to do with either data or truth, and everything to do with politics, strategy and creating a counternarrative.   

THE EMAIL EXCHANGE AS DESCRIBED IN PAULI’s BOOK CHAPTER

According to Dr. Pauli’s draft book chapter, FACHEP immediately began to misrepresent the substance of the written email exchange with Edwards. We reproduce a remarkable section of Pauli’s book in the bold text below, along with a our comments unpacking each gem of anarchist tactical writing:

…<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

Back-to-back Melissa 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.

The press packet and emails associated with the first press conference asserted it would “change the narrative regarding the water testing and analysis in Flint” by exposing “manipulation of data”  and “test results (which have been largely ignored) showing lead levels exceeding 1,700  ppb.” Ironically, it was only when we later viewed this press conference, that it became clear how Ms. Mays herself falsified and manipulated the data, by improperly collecting her high lead samples “from the meter” and violating the EPA protocol.    

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?

Supporting documentation:

Primary author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards

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

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

FACHEP: A “KEYSTONE COPs” TRAGICOMEDY

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

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

FACHEP RUMOR MONGERING IN ACTION: CASE STUDY 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drs. LOVE and MCELMURRY make some house-calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU CAN’T HANDLE DR. LOVE’S “TRUTHS”

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

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

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

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

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

AGENCIES CORRECT A RUMOR — A FACHEP CRYBULLY COUNTERATTACK

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dr. Laura Sullivan: October 5, 2016

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

William Hammond:

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

Dr. Laura Sullivan

(did not answer Hammond’s question about handwashing)

Michael Schock (USEPA):

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

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

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

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

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

OCTOBER 6 CONFERENCE CALL: A WEEK OF PURE FACHEP CHAOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 3: Alleged CDC incompetence.

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

Dr. LOVE schools the CDC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DR. LOVE THE ETHICIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting evidence:

Primary author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards

FACHEP vs. The People of the State of Michigan: Part VI Unfair Competition: Wayne State University and Vegans do it better


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.

Cast of Key Characters Parts 1-5

Name Institution Role
Dr. Shawn McElmurryWSU – Civil Engineering FACHEP’s Founder, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Marcus ZervosWSU – Infectious DiseaseFACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Paul KilgoreWSU – PharmacyFACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Nancy LoveUM – Civil EngineeringDr. McElmurry’s Enabler/Defender; Water Filter Research, Engineering Ethics Pontificator
Dr. Yanna LambrinidouParents for Non-Toxic AlternativesFriend of FACHEP, Adversary of Flintwaterstudy
 
Dr. Eden WellsMI Chief Medical OfficerAccused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
Mr. Nick LyonMI Health Chief Accused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
 
Marc EdwardsVT – Civil EngineeringFlintwaterstudy leader – Author of this blog Series; Potable Water Legionella, Lead, Ethics Expertise
Dr. Amy Pruden VT – Civil EngineeringVT Flint research co-PI; Potable Water Legionella and Microbiology Expertise
Dr. Kasey FaustUT – Civil EngineeringPhD work in Flint 2013-2015 on Shrinking Cities; Dr. McElmurry was on her PhD Committee
Dr. Sue MastenMSU – Civil EngineeringFACHEP Member and Whistleblower; Drinking Water Treatment Expertise

PART 1: Dr. SHAWN McELMURRY

CONSIDERING THE UNIMAGINABLE-DID McELMURRY COMPLETELY FABRICATE HIS STORY OF WORK IN FLINT?

PART 2: FACHEP’S TROUBLED BIRTH

PART 3: FACHEP MAKES A MOCKERY OF ETHICAL CODES—THE WHISTLEBLOWER FROM MSU

PART 4: LOVE THE ALARMIST:  THE REAL STORY ON SHIGELLA AND WATER FILTERS (Pre-FWC to August 12, 2016)

PART 5: TRIAL BY ORDEAL WITHIN AN ACADEMIC BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES


PART 6: UNFAIR COMPETITION: WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY AND VEGANS DO IT BETTER

Wayne State University (WSU) faculty lead FACHEP and play multiple roles in the felony criminal cases against Dr. Wells and Mr. Lyon. Star witnesses Drs. McElmurry, Kilgore and Zervos hail from WSU. Mr. Noah Hall (WSU) served as a special assistant attorney general on the cases and also frequently opines to the media. Dr. Larry Reynolds (WSU alumnus) and Mr. Hollins (former WSU Vice President) initiated the sole source funding to FACHEP and testified in the court cases. All of this weighed on our mind as we pondered WSU’s repeated obfuscations under Michigan FOIA law, and examine yet another WSU connection in the Wells and Lyon trials herein.

Edwards vs. Wayne State.

Our FOIA case against WSU grinds forward thanks to great work by Attorney Derk Wilcox and others (MACKINAC CENTER LEGAL FOUNDATION), despite stubborn resistance to laws designed to ensure access to public documents and communications. We provide one simple example of how absurd the entire experience has been in the paragraphs that follow. Our experience also reveals the lengths to which WSU will go to protect its “Wayne Cares for Flint” brand, and the pipeline through which millions and millions in grant funding continue to flow due to Dr. McElmurry’s claim of “unique qualifications” and work in Flint 2010-2015.

Above photo of Dr. McElmurry provided courtesy of MLive/The Flint Journal. McElmurry’s quote illustrates how he channels Dr. Kasey Faust’s dissertation and life story for self-promotion (12-5-2015 MLive article).

Consider Dr. Edwards third and very straightforward WSU FOIA request filed March 3, 2018. We knew that on October 27, 2017, McElmurry gave a public presentation entitled “The Challenge of Mitigating Risk Associated With Aging Drinking Water Infrastructure in Shrinking Cities” at Michigan State University. Edwards requested copies of the PowerPoint slides in order to follow-up on serious concerns that McElmurry was taking ideas from others without proper attribution.  Our specific concern was Dr. Kasey Faust’s dissertation data and her work on shrinking cities– materials McElmurry had access to while serving as an external member of her PhD committee.    

Due to blatant stone-walling on the part of WSU, we finally had no choice but to file a lawsuit to force WSU to follow Michigan FOIA law.  They eventually provided most slides, but are still fighting to withhold four slides to protect Dr. McElmurry’s “intellectual property” from our “unfair competition.” You read that correctly, WSU is afraid we might steal McElmurry’s intellectual property.

We appealed that decision on the basis that he had already publicly presented the slides. The Wayne State response to the appeal came November 21, 2018 as follows:

The contents of the power point presentation…were not made completely available to the audience. Dr. McElmurry took steps to protect and preserve the confidentiality of the redacted materials (slides 22, 23, 25 and 33) from unfair competition and copyright infringement. The audience was not allowed to make photographic copies of any of the slides and 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…  Furthermore, the presentation was not made in a forum that was open to anyone in the academic community. This was an invitation only, educational symposium…

This is fascinating on so many levels we scarcely know where to begin. For starters, it seems WSU is inventing an academic equivalent of the “five-second rule” applied to determine whether it is okay to eat food dropped on the floor.  Exactly how many seconds did McElmurry allow the slides to remain on the screen, to be sure that the information was not retained by the audience? And isn’t taking steps “to protect and preserve…confidentiality” and prevent an audience from retaining information, contrary to the intent of a public presentation in the first place?

And if this is not already beyond ludicrous, McElmurry himself took pictures of other presenters’ slides at the same forum!  He even proudly emailed one photo to Dr. Masten, in which the slide contents can be easily read (below). Perhaps McElmurry will now face severe WSU disciplinary action for retaining information given at a public presentation.  

Other possible explanations 

While we remain open to the idea that McElmurry has created intellectual property that must be shielded from our “unfair competition,” we have developed a certain amount of cynicism. We cannot help but ask, “What could WSU really be hiding?”

With this very question in mind, Dr. Sue Masten (MSU) did some searching. Lo and behold, she found an earlier McElmurry PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Flint Water Crisis: An Engineering Perspective, that was apparently given at Iowa State University in 2016. Masten requested Dr. McElmurry’s PowerPoint presentation materials by email on February 20, 2016. When he forwarded the file to her, McElmurry confessed: 

 No problem! After all, as you will see, more than half of this presentation is YOURS!

That was a truthful statement.  Literally, more than half the slides in McElmurry’s presentation, were taken from a prior presentation Dr. Masten had previously created. There is no evidence anywhere in the presentation, that McElmurry gave Dr. Masten any attribution for use of her slides. Shamefully, the PowerPoint presentation that we reviewed still had Dr. Masten’s speaking notes embedded within it.

But taking Dr. Masten’s slides was just the start. It also turns out that that some of the figures appearing in McElmurry’s powerpoint presentation (i.e., the slides he did NOT take from Dr. Masten) were lifted from Dr. Faust’s dissertation work (example below).

Notice that McElmurry may have re-colored Dr. Faust’s figure and added the following improper attribution to the bottom of his slide [Faust, et al. (2015)], which follows a citation on a prior slide:

Faust, K.M., Abraham, D.D.,
McElmurry, S.P. (2015) Sustainability of Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
in Shrinking Cities. Public Works Management & Policy, 1-29. DOI:
10.1177/1087724X15606737

In other words, after McElmurry took a figure from Dr. Faust’s work, he added a citation to a paper on which he was generously included as the third (i.e., least contributing) co-author. In so doing he created an illusion that he had intellectual co-ownership of her “shrinking city” work. However, the reality is that the paper he cited, literally has nothing to do with the above figure at all. This is the exact same unethical sleight-of-hand trick McElmurry used to claim intellectual ownership of Dr. Faust’s work in his 2015 NIH proposal.  

McElmurry has repeatedly abused his third authorship position on Dr. Faust’s peer reviewed journal paper to lay claim to Dr. Faust’s entire dissertation, academic identity and work “in Flint” whenever it suits him. In retrospect, we wonder if he realized, the very instant he was informed Faust’s paper was published with his name on it October 1, 2015, that this could be transformed into such a golden ticket. Recall that he immediately wrote Dr. Faust: “Wonderful! This is amazing timing. I hope you two have been keeping up on the disaster that has been unfolding in Flint with their drinking water supply….. We should talk tomorrow. I’ll try calling you.”

Following their phone conversation, Dr. Faust handed over to McElmurry her dissertation hydraulic model on the false pretense she would be included on a forthcoming “ <NIH> emergency proposal..<and> NSF and EPA grants.” After he received the models by email, McElmurry never included Faust on future grants, but simply puts “Faust, K.M., Abraham, D.D., McElmurry, S.P. (2015) or Faust et al. (2015)” to falsely take credit for her work. The extent to which he has used this trick again and again, without remorse, apology, or consequence, is truly sickening.

But even that was not the end to McElmurry’s intellectual property theft in the presentation we reviewed. We also discovered slides and photos in the body of his work that were lifted from Flintwaterstudy.org and passed off as his own.  Consider the remarkable similarity between this slide in McElmurry’s presentation and our Flintwaterstudy graph from October 2015.  There is no attribution whatsoever.

(Left) McElmurry presentation slide at Iowa State — 2016 and (Right) Flint Water Study graph posted on this website — 10-04-2015

To be fair, McElmurry did personalize our Figure for his presentation, by removing the black frame that appears on our version, akin to how he changed some colors on the EXCEL pie charts in Dr. Faust’s dissertation figure. But only in McElmurry’s world does removing a frame or recoloring a graph create intellectual ownership. 

Which brings us back to the 4 slides that WSU is fighting to withhold. In the presentation viewed above, we describe how he took ideas without proper attribution from three different individuals. It seems highly unlikely he could outdo that performance with just the four slides withheld by WSU (i.e., could the 4 withheld slides be appropriated from 4 different people?). 

That said, it would be hypocritical, to say the least, if it turns out that WSU was asserting an “intellectual property” or “unfair competition” exemption for slides that were actually the work of others (e.g., Dr. Faust or Dr. Masten). At this point, after the trauma of reviewing the Iowa State PowerPoint, we also confess to having a deep desire to see even one example of true intellectual property created by McElmurry. We have thus committed ourselves to pressing on with the fight to see all four slides.

MACKINAC CENTER LEGAL FOUNDATION RESPONSE TO WSU

Just last week, Mackinac submitted the following absurd interrogatories to WSU, in response to their prior absurd answers about their rationale to withhold the slides:

You have stated that this presentation was made at an “invitation only, educational symposium.” Please provide a list of invitees.  Please provide the names and identifying information for all security personnel who controlled entrance to this event…<and> who controlled and/or monitored attendees to ensure that they did not photograph or otherwise record the presentation.

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. 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.”

WSU VEGAN SEX AUTHOR AND EXPERT WITNESS FOR PROSECUTION 

We now shift gears, to the important matter of just who was selected for compensated expert witness work for the special prosecutor in the Lyon and Wells case. A critical and somewhat controversial expert is cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn (Wayne State University). In the pre-trial hearings, Dr. Kahn provided testimony for the prosecution on the role of Legionnaires’ Disease in death of a patient. The defense in Lyon argued Dr. Kahn is unqualified and should be tossed from the case “because he does not have training in infectious disease, pulmonology or Legionnaires,” whereas the prosecution begged to differ.  

We dove deep and determined that Dr. Kahn claims a wide range of expertise, and is also something of him an entrepreneur. Among his featured intellectual contributions, is co-authorship of the book Vegan Sex: Vegans Do it Better– Dump your meds and jump in bed.” Dr. Kahn’s youtube video pitching the book has now been viewed slightly more than 500 times. The 16 reviews on the book are clearly bi-modal, with roughly 2/3 respondents giving it 5 stars and 1/3 giving it a one star. The reviews are worth a read if you are looking for a little free entertainment. We also found a WSU youtube video that has been viewed 100 times, in which Dr. Kahn jokes that he is also an “expert in neurobiology because I watched Animal House 100 times (listen @ 2 minutes and 45 seconds).”

We obtained FOIA documents that indicate Dr. Kahn has indeed been financially compensated for providing his expertise in the Lyon and Wells pre-trials. While he bills a lower rate of $500/hour for normal work on cases, for any court appearance he charges a flat fee of $7,500. So for example, on February 16nd, 2018, when he testified less than 1 hour, he billed $7500 because that was a “court” day. In total, Dr. Kahn has received $100,000 from Michigan taxpayers to date for his pretrial work and testimony. We sincerely hope that the question of his expertise be further investigated and resolved, before the State of Michigan starts to spend really serious money during the full trial.  

WAYNE CARES FOR FLINT

Reviewing Dr. Kahn’s billing records prompted us to start making a list of all the ways we are aware of that WSU and its employees could receive taxpayer compensation related to the Flint Water Crisis and the criminal cases. We do not have a problem with any of this, mind you, provided that all of the work originated from truthful statements and fair competition.

The list currently includes: 

  1. Tens of millions in government research grants, snowballing directly or indirectly, from McElmurry’s claims of work “in Flint” 2010-2015 and unique expertise.
  2. WSU estimate that taxpayers would have to provide $280,000 to pay 1.4 years of Dr. McElmurry’s salary at $96.93/hour, to produce FOIA documents requested by Mr. Lyon’s defense. WSU stated: Due to the highly technical nature of your requests, Dr. McElmurry is the lowest paid employee of the University who is capable of performing the necessary review…. We realize that the cost and time frame estimates may seem excessive to you. They are not. Rather, they are dictated by requests that are very broad and require painstaking review for responsiveness and exemptions by a fully engaged faculty member.” As a point of comparison, Virginia Tech charges less than $15/hour to review FOIA and faculty are not allowed to engage in the process. 
  3. Dr. Kahn’s compensation for expert witness work (= $100K)
  4. Mr. Noah Hall’s (WSU) likely compensation for his role as assistant special prosecutor.

It strikes us that there can be a fascinating synergy to all of this. Consider a completely hypothetical example where a faculty member falsifies their work record to land a huge government grant, then proceeds to crybully their way to a felony charge against a government official attempting to manage their incompetence. Those criminal charges, in turn, create new cash flow opportunities: faculty expert witness testimony, faculty employment on the special prosecution team, and faculty employment to produce emails to the defense team. All the while, publicly waving a “We Care for Flint” banner and pontificating about upholding the “engineering code of ethics.”

There is obviously a lot of food for thought here. Perhaps Michigan taxpayers should plan an outing to Dr. Kahn’s (WSU) Greenspace Cafe restaurant, which just so happens to be highly recommended by Mr. Shawn McElmurry (see below), to share a nice dinner and conversation about unfair competition, FACHEP, Vegan Sex, and how much “Wayne Cares for Flint.”


Supporting Documentation

Primary Author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards

Part V: Trial by Ordeal within an Academic Bonfire of the Vanities

The questionable tactics of the Flint Area Community Health and Environmental Partnership and Friends (F+F) have recently been covered in major media. Steve Kolowich at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Perry Stein at the Washington Post and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones have all given their take on this distasteful situation. 

As Perry Stein perceptively noted, when it comes to the F+F instigated crybully attacks on Dr. Wells, Flintwaterstudy or Dr. Edwards, the key question is:

 “Clearly, a betrayal had occurred. The question was, who betrayed whom?”

This blog provides revelatory new facts to answer this very question.

This week we disclose FOIA emails from a friend of FACHEP, which, in our view, are so unhinged, that they had to be sanitized in the above publications to make them suitable for public consumption. A careful analysis provides some insights to what a modern “trial by ordeal” within F+F’s academic bonfire of the vanities looks like—a nightmare that makes all the political attacks appear both quaint and principled by comparison. 

What follows is a tragic tale of betrayal, both real and imagined.

Dr. Lambrinidou becomes a FACHEP supporter

Kolowich correctly described the sad end to Edwards’ decade plus collaboration with Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou [Affiliate Faculty in Science, Technology and Society (STS)]. Edwards and Lambrinidou worked intensively together from 2007-2010 to expose the D.C. Lead Crisis Coverup, co-founded an innovative engineering ethics class and had several funded research projects together. 

In the Flint saga, Edwards introduced Lambrinidou as “the best” to Melissa Mays, to help organize the September 15th, 2015 press conference. Edwards also recommended Lambrinidou for other prominent roles in the Flint Water Crisis, providing a basis for claims that she was an activist “in the Flint, Michigan, crisis” during interviews in Rolling Stone and Al Jazeera. She even gave public presentations through at least April 2016, providing “insights from the prize-winning Virginia Tech research team that uncovered the drinking water crisis in Flint Michigan.”  

As we will detail herein, Lambrinidou eventually turned against VT, Flintwaterstudy and Dr. Edwards, to become a fawning ally and supporter of FACHEP. In 2018, Dr. Lambrinidou signed the Flintcomplaints letter, which we consider defamatory to Dr. Edwards and defensive of FACHEP. We even suspect Lambrinidou helped instigate that anonymously written letter and the associated Facebook Flintcomplaints page, using both as a cudgel to attack our team’s reputation. Dr. Lambrinidou was eventually named as a defendant in Dr. Edwards’ defamation case in July 2018 (original case filing put online by buzzfeed) and FACHEP faculty have been rallying to her support ever since. For instance, Lambrinidou was invited to give a guest lecture at the University of Michigan in Dr. Love’s “ethics” class in October 2018.

Her vitriolic public attacks on Dr. Edwards intensified from 2016 to 2018, with claims he was an exemplar of unethical Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) faculty, who allegedly steal credit that should be given to STS “social justice” activists like herself. Lambrinidou’s first public critique of Dr. Edwards was August 2016, when she claimed to the New York Times that he should not have attended the Flint press conference.

The Press Conference: A STEM “Pearl Harbor” like Aggression?


September 15th, 2015 — a date which will live in infamy — the residents of Flint, MI were suddenly and deliberately attacked by STEM forces of the empire of Virginia Tech. #decolonizeSTEM

Our only slightly exaggerated characterization of Lambrinidou’s hyperbolic Flint critiques  (apologies to FDR).

Dr. Edwards started collaborating with Flint Mom LeeAnne Walters and EPA Scientist Miguel Del Toral in April 2014. Over the next three months Edwards reported hazardous waste levels of lead in Walters home, contributed scientific data to Del Toral’s EPA memo outlining the imminent and substantial endangerment to Flint residents, and collaborated with ACLU-Michigan reporter Curt Guyette on his investigative reporting. All of that work was done behind the scenes to the extent possible, minimizing Edwards’ public role.  It was only after Del Toral was silenced in late July 2015 that Flintwaterstudy launched publicly.

As data from our citizen sampling campaign rolled in, it became apparent there was a massive city-wide water lead problem, at which point Guyette and other Flint residents requested that Dr. Edwards and Sid Roy attend a press conference (September 15, 2015) to make public the alarming scientific results. THE PRESS CONFERENCE is a defining moment in every account of the Flint Water Crisis, including the Lifetime Movie “Flint” and the NOVA documentary Poisoned Water.

The Press Conference:  Fully anticipating that our every word and deed at the press conference would one day be misrepresented by social justice faculty, we left nothing to chance. Dr. Edwards and Roy stood in the background, spoke succinctly on the safety and public health issues before moving once again to the background. We also videotaped the entire event so you can watch it and form your own opinion (Roy speaks from 1:44-4:08 or 144 seconds and Edwards from 4:11-7:29 or 198 seconds).

The very next day (September 16, 2015) Dr. Lambrinidou wrote to her Virginia Tech colleague Dr. Donna Riley (who is now Dean of Engineering Education at Purdue), describing the press conference as follows (emphasis added to all quotes in this blog): 

“You are catching me at an especially cynical moment… Marc colonized Flint so completely this week, that the press conference I recommended to the residents in order to support them to take power back and become visible again turned into a Marc-fest with Marc at the center of everything.

Link

Lambrinidou’s ludicrous characterization of Edwards’ role at the press conference has now been presented in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times Magazine, Lambrinidou’s editorials, and in numerous disparaging STS presentations all over the country. Not only is that story completely contradicted by the video, but she falsely tries to take credit for recommending the press conference to residents.  When Sid Roy directly contradicted his former ethics professor’s account of a “Marc-fest” during a May 2016 conversation, he felt it important to note that she did not even attend the event whereas he had. Undeterred, Lambrinidou mysteriously responded: sometimes you have to be far removed from actual events to know what is really going on.”

Filter GoFundMe: Unfortunately, Lambrinidou was just getting started in her September 16, 2015 email to Dr. Riley. She next extended her distorted social justice lens to question the motives and ethics of Flintwaterstudy students. After Anurag Mantha started a GOFUNDME campaign to help Flint residents purchase lead filters, Lambrinidou described the good deed as follows:

“On top of that, in Blacksburg the research team decided to create a crowdsourcing site that asks the world to make a donation for water filters for the low-income people of Flint…..So we have a bizarre noblesse oblige set-up that in reality seems self-promoting. If I were a resident of Flint, I would be offended. Actually, I am not a resident of Flint and I am offended.

Link

Sid Roy Tweet: Completing a “land, water and air” characterization of the VT STEM colonialist assault on Flint, Lambrinidou then called out two tweets Sid Roy sent after the successful press conference.

Lambrinidou’s analysis of Sid’s tweet:

“The climax of the colonization was last night in the form of a tweet from Sid …who upon his return home thanked the Flint residents for “coming out” to their OWN press conference (I suspect that Sid and many other grad students have grown somewhat confused about WHOM the Flint situation is about?).

Link

Lambrinidou ended her email claiming that this VT STEM colonization story would make a great introduction to a new book she wanted to co-author with Riley on Environmental Justice. Riley agreed.

It is also important to note that until her May 2016 conversation with Sid Roy, Lambrinidou never once shared this sort of criticism with Dr. Edwards or the rest of the Flintwaterstudy study team. In fact, she was outright duplicitous, as evidenced by public praise for our team’s efforts through at least January 2016.  Consider her October 8, 2015 tweet “Thks to VT..for helping to uncover the truth,” or her January 19, 2016 email to Edwards:

“I am also LOVING seeing the results in Flint which are totally concrete and undeniable. In great part thanks to your work. 🙂 Yanna

She also emailed: “Marc, congratulations!!!,” celebrating his pivotal role in the resignation of Ms. Susan Hedman (EPA). We hope our readers agree that this is a very fascinating situation. What on earth could cause someone to live such an “academic double life” in the first place? And, what could cause someone to eventually give that double life up? We will answer the latter question first.  

For really interested readers, here is an audio recording from a October 8 2015 podcast interview between Sid Roy and Dr. Lambrinidou, where she is clearly alluding to the strains of her situation and decisions:

“I’LL GO CRAZY” and it is “EATING ME UP ALIVE”

Science published a short feature on Dr. Edwards’ work in Flint entitled “The Water Watchdog” on March 11, 2016. When asked what colleagues thought about his activism, Dr. Edwards honestly replied:

I engage in activism as a last resort, after every scientific path has failed. Since I personally find activism distasteful, I forgive the academics who also view it negatively.

Upon reading the interview Dr. Lambrinidou took grave offense. At no point in the interview did Dr. Edwards disrespect activists, but merely said that for himself, activism was a last resort he found distasteful. Reacting angrily, Lambrinidou’s activist faculty colleagues said unethical ME <Edwards> is not a good scientist, not a good engineer, not a good teacher, and not a good citizen.” Lambrinidou thanked them for their support, stating “I honestly sometimes get scared that i’ll go crazy…. Sometimes i can’t take it anymore.”

Rolling up their sleeves to conduct research for their book on environmental justice, Lambrinidou actually started counting “hero” references to characters in the Flint story, eventually creating the graph depicted below, which she sent to Dr. Riley on April 4, 2016, along with an explanatory caption.

Lambrinidou: “I also did a quick and dirty analysis of media articles about Flint that name someone (anyone) a hero. And then I looked at the number of months (and dogged work) that these heroes have devoted to the water crisis. As you can imagine, hero mention increases with higher professional status and lower time-commitment to the cause.”

Even though Dr. Edwards was in third place on the graph (for a biased analysis ignoring all the work behind the scenes from April to August 2015), he was strangely the sole target of Lambrinidou’s angst. She emailed Dr. Riley:

“this work, although i know it’s important, is making me sick. an hour ago i just took my first ever anti-anxiety med (i almost never take meds for anything). the injustice of it all, the exploitation, the abuse, and the national narrative of celebration and heroism is eating me up alive. it’s like looking at your rapist <Edwards> get the nobel prize for gender equality.….

Link

Dr. Riley offered Lambrinidou the following solace:

“I think this is why so many justice folks talk seriously about self care – because it does eat us up. And often it’s not the opposition but supposed allies that inflict the most betrayal and harm. There is nothing wrong with you. You are having a very human response to it all.” 

Link

Based on Lambrinidou’s response when he asked her about the above emails produced by FOIA, Kolowich (Chronicle of Higher Education) wrote:

“…she’s not ashamed of what she wrote in her private emails. The real shame, Lambrinidou said, would be if people mistake her criticism of Edwards’s work for a personal vendetta rather than a serious critique of the power dynamic between experts and the people they are supposed to serve.”

Personal Vendetta or Serious Critique?

To shed light on the “double life” question, and the issue of a “serious critique” versus “personal vendetta,” we now have to go back 8 years.

As detailed in the lawsuit, in 2010 Dr. Lambrinidou sent Dr. Edwards emails that he interpreted as romantic advances. Such emails stopped after he made it clear he was committed to his then 22 year marriage. But in July 2013, Lambrinidou made the following comment, copying three of her 20-something male VT graduate student advisees, on the topic of “listening”: 

“This might sound weird, but to me the question sounded almost as personal as a question about the last time you had a really meaningful sexual encounter. Think about standing up in front of a crowd and telling them about the last time you felt really listened to… Exposing, yes?”

Link

Now that you mention it, that does sound weird.

Over the next month or so, there were many other “weird” events that can be documented in writing, including Lambrinidou claiming that Edwards “humiliated” her by “flirting” with another female faculty member while at a professional banquet. Or Lambrinidou writing about an “attraction between us that we discussed many times,” in reference to conversations Edwards recalls differently. Or warning “how good <Lambrinidou> was at leaving people” but that this that is “not a skill I am proud of, btw.” (These emails are not provided herein).

Edwards still respected Lambrinidou as a valued colleague that he had worked with for 6 years at that point, but he made it clear that boundaries to their communications would be necessary if they were to continue working together. After they could not reach agreement on that issue, they began a long process of finishing up several major grants in progress, which included co-development of an Engineering Ethics class.

Over the next several years Edwards continued to professionally support Lambrinidou by extolling her strengths publicly. He called her “the best” in his September 4th 2015 email introducing her to Flint activists, and he recommended Lambrinidou for other roles in the Flint water crisis in 2016 as mentioned earlier. And as with all his advisees and colleagues, he repeatedly attempted to boost her spirits about the value of their work (see exemplary emails January 18-January 21st, 2016).

But unbeknownst to Edwards, back in 2013 Lambrinidou plotted a different path. In an October 20th, 2013 email to a friend regarding the distancing that occurred in their personal relationship (profanity edited with ## below):

 “some absolutely mortifying developments a few weeks ago. Like I was dealing with a psychopath sans a soul. Like, if he lived close to me, he would come stab me to death. …He wrote back within 3 seconds and told me to fu## myself (in essence)… So, on the one hand I am doing MUCH better, but on the other, I am still in shock and very much grieving. I have never had any experience with a human being like this before — he even accused me of expecting too much of people…It’s all finished. Totally finished. But the idea that he thinks of me as some little pain-in-the-butt psychotic bit## scares me and stuns me and leaves me in disbelief…, and that’s because a) I am none of these things at all, and b) in truth I gave him everything, everything I have, the very best of me, just gave him all.”

Link

Seventeen months later, Lambrinidou was still preoccupied with Edwards, as evidenced by a March 18th, 2015 email to her friend just a few weeks before Virginia Tech engaged in Flint (emphasis added):  

“Indeed, slowly but surely Marc is starting to fade away from my heart and mind. I think of him as a coward, like all narcissists are, because he doesn’t have the emotional and spiritual strength to enter relationships where he is not being feared and worshipped. How pathetic that seems to me. What a spineless way to live one’s life. Marc is the quintessential example of the subjugating engineer who colonizes people….”

Link

Clearly, Lambrinidou’s issues with Dr. Edwards dated back to at least 2013. Her private accusations of colonialism and much worse, predate the “critique” in her September 16th, 2016 email. For nearly three years, Dr. Edwards was completely unaware of what his colleague was doing or saying about him behind the scenes, which included a March 11, 2016 FWICC meeting when Lambrinidou greeted him warmly, took an adjacent seat and passed him personal notes.

Lambrinidou sitting next to Edwards and Hanna-Attisha at the March 11, 2016 FWICC Meeting

Escalating Attacks

Once Lambrinidou went public with her criticism in August 2016, her attacks inexorably intensified. At one dinner in late 2016 with Flintwaterstudy students who formerly had Lambrinidou as an ethics professor, she claimed Dr. Edwards was unethical. She then asserted that Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, with whom Edwards was closely collaborating and sharing awards, was actually a cowardly figure who had to be talked into doing her famous blood lead study. When Dr. Edwards heard this, he immediately fact checked the story with the only people who would know—Lambrinidou’s vindictive statement was refuted.  Along the same lines, in April 2016 Lambrinidou wrote that Edwards and Hanna-Attisha’s Time100 award represented a “grave injustice.”

Shortly thereafter, another Flintwaterstudy student heard shocking claims that allegedly came from a mutual friend of Lambrinidou. First, there was the assertion that the Flintwaterstudy effort was unethical and opportunist from the start (consistent with Lambrinidou’s newly revealed September 16, 2015 email to her VT faculty friends). But it was also alleged that Dr. Lambrinidou never liked Dr. Edwards, that he had stolen credit from her for the ethics class, and he had even threatened her. All rumors that have been circulating ever since.

In late 2017, Dr. Riley publicly tweeted analogies to #metoo and claims of “structural bullying” in relation to Dr. Edwards, during a conference presentation by Lambrinidou—apparently this sort of unfounded personal attack is cutting edge scholarship in STS social justice warrior events. At that point we were finally compelled to respond publicly. Dr. Riley’s bizarre public tweets, are now viewed as a perfectly logical extension of years of disparaging email communications between Riley, Lambrinidou and their other social justice faculty colleague. Those emails include dozens of pages in which they attempt to negatively influence press reporting of Edwards and sabotage his award nominations (these emails are not included herein).

Further, recall that Dr. Riley and Lambrinidou, both cowardly refused to discuss their tweets or presentations about Edwards when we confronted them. Dr. Riley even flat out lied in writing to our team, when she claimed her tweet had nothing at all to do with Dr. Edwards or our work in Flint.

FlintComplaints and Allegations of Unethical Behavior

These attacks became ever more aggressive as detailed in the lawsuit. On April 27 2018, Lambrinidou sent this #decolonizestem tweet, citing “the brutality he <Edwards> inflicts on innocent ppl” and “institutional betrayal” by “intoxicated” “#Engineering & #STEM establishments.” We suppose this is another yet serious STS critique not to be confused with a personal vendetta.

Just two weeks later, the anonymously authored “flintcomplaints” letter was sent to numerous STEM organizations, requesting that Edwards be subject to an immediate investigation of unethical behavior, and face a kangaroo court that includes…. Environmental Justice leaders who have expertise in abuses of professional power against poisoned communities like Flint. Two FACHEP faculty signed the letter, which prominently criticized Edwards allegations about Dr. McElmurry, and also denied FACHEP ever claimed Shigella came from water.  

As the saying goes, all is fair in love and <<the academic culture>> war—heaven forbid if the two are ever conflated.

Who Betrayed Whom?

Exposing these emails is both tragic and revelatory. The narcissistic victimization narrative of F+F would be laughable were it not for the real-world harm as measured by damaged reputations, lost trust in science/government, and millions of dollars in taxpayer funding.

Recall FACHEP’s claim that they were being “set upand that the State of Michigan “completely screwed us and the people of Flint,” all because they were only provided $3.4 million dollar in a sole source project based on unverified “unique qualifications?” And the testimony that “Dr. Kilgore turned red and pounded his hand on the table and said, “People are going to Fu##ing die” if the <$13 million> in research was not able to proceed immediately and as planned.”

And we now have Dr. Lambrinidou, writing that she was being “eaten alive” by Edwards’ acclaimed role in Flint, becoming physically ill as she counted “hero” references one by one, and then invoking an outrageous rape analogy to justify her malaise. And her friend Dr. Riley, asserting this is all a normal human response to “supposed allies that inflict the most betrayal and harm.”

In this case and all the others, “Who betrayed whom?”

Supporting documentation

Dr. Lambrinidou’s podcast interview excerpt

Primary Author: Dr. Marc Edwards