Sunday, February 21, 2016



It seems as though a theme of water is running through my latest posts.  My last few posts focused on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  Today, my focus is on Peru, specifically the waters connected to the mighty Amazon River.  It is a story that appears to be getting no national attention here in America and little attention globally.

Petroperú, a state-owned petroleum company in existence for nearly fifty years, is at the center of this crisis.  Just two days ago, on February 18, Peru's Ministry of Health declared a water quality emergency, stemming from two oil spills from the company's Northern Peruvian Pipeline.  The first was on January 25 (in the Bagua province of the Amazonas region) and the second was on February 3 (in the Datem del Marañon province of the Loreto region).  That same day, shortly after the Ministry of Health declared the water quality emergency, it was announced that a third oil spill (in the Jaén province of the Cajamarca region) was found the day before, on February 17.
That makes three oil spills in the Amazon region this year alone -- three oil spills in less than four weeks.

Petroperú has been fined the maximum under law, 12,640,000 soles (approximately US$3,600,000), which does not include the actual costs for correcting the situation.  The fine is specifically for Petroperú not having the proper facilities required to maintain the pipeline. The Agency for Assessment and Environmental Control (Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental, or OEFA) says that Petroperú has to not only take measures to properly maintain existing pipelines and relative equipment, but also to formulate and implement a plan to improve protecting all surrounding areas through which the pipeline runs.  While the OEFA says that the leaks were due to failures in maintaining pipelines, Petroperú maintains that they were the result of "natural causes".

Perhaps the "natural causes" included the pipeline's age, over forty years old, which would mandate regular, proper maintenance.

While the oil company gives no numbers, local leaders are stating that up to 2,000 barrels of crude oil have leaked out of the pipeline; some reports put it as high as 3,000 barrels.  Results from water samples taken by the OEFA should be ready next month.  The oil spill, which started in the Chiriaco River, a major tributary of the Marañon River, has spread to the Marañon.  Excessive rainfall causing the waters to rise about barriers put in place by Petroperú resulted in the oil spill spreading.

The Marañon River is a major water source in Peru, snaking through much of the eastern portion of the country's Andes Mountains (the upper Amazon River region) and across the northern part of the country.  It supplies water for thousands of indigenous peoples and lots of wildlife.  It is easy to see how an oil spill of this magnitude can be catastrophic.

It has been estimated that the damage to the water, the land, and wildlife will take approximately a year to correct itself after human cleanup efforts.  An ongoing problem is to the indigenous peoples who live in the areas of affected water.  If the water is undrinkable, any wildlife who drink the water, as well as the fish in the water, will die.  If the wildlife dies and is poisoned, that is less food for people to eat.  If you cannot use water for farming, you cannot grow crops, resulting in less food and herbs than can be harvested.  If you cannot bathe in the water, personal hygiene levels begin to drop, increasing the likelihood of disease.  If you cannot drink the water, the body does not get one of its most basic needs, and so on.  What you get are scenes like these:

Petroperú's troubles with their Northern Peruvian Pipeline are nothing recent.  Two years ago, the same pipeline had five breaks in it over the course of roughly six months.  There have been more prior to that, but damages of the Peruvian and specifically Amazonian ecosystems from oil drilling and pumping (and previously bolstered by the government) have occurred since the 1970s.  It does make one wonder if, as the projections go, it takes up to a year for the environment to recover, how long have decades of these events affected the environment over the long haul?  Even if the projections are for the immediately-affected areas, water does travel, so the point of a spill can be marked, but its effects, if not contained, go far beyond that point.

Last week, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala stated, "We can't have this uncertainty that a breach can occur at any time.  There needs to be maintenance work and monitoring of the pipeline."  How true!  In the search for oil, there is, indeed, much uncertainty, as proven time and time again in various parts of the world.  This is why so many individuals and groups are against drilling in sensitive areas (i.e. off-shore from coastal towns, the Alaskan Arctic Refuge).  There is, and has been, more than enough good reason to oppose it.

There is, in fact, only one certainty at this point: profits over protection guarantees that these kinds of environmental disasters will continue unless some far-reaching, serious changes are put in place and vigorously enforced.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Measurement of the Day: PARTS PER BILLION [Part 3 of 3]

[This is the concluding part of my three-part series on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.] 


As noted yesterday in the An American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint town hall videos, the issuance of water filters throughout was not a bad step -- it certainly made sense to do so -- but likely an insufficient one. That has been part of the problem in Flint: responding too little, too late ... or not at all. Digging up the city's piping infrastructure should have already been under way; it hasn't.

Another part of this is governance.  Specifically, it has to do with cutting out those who are directly affected in these kinds of situations, leaving them with no voice.  This is not a case of a water main bursting or a problem with the machinery at a water treatment plant.  Those are emergency situations that are just dealt with.  It may be worded in contracts that such actions will be taken in those situations, but it is, nonetheless, seen a given that it will happen.  No weighing in by the residents is required.

However, when an appointment is made -- in this case, Governor Snyder's multiple Emergency Managers -- and those appointed can take steps that directly affect a city without the people saying yes or no to those steps, then that is no longer a democratic state.  When an emergency arises, as was the case in Flint financially, it is all well and good to appoint someone to fix the problem, with preferably using decisions made on his or her own very sparingly.  When that fix affects people adversely and they are cut out of the equation, it leaves open the possibility for far worse problems to arise ... problems, for example, like those in Flint.  The result is those affected have no say, no recourse.

In my home state of New Jersey, something with some broad similarities to the debacle in Flint had its first step put in to effect recently. Just over a week ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Republican presidential candidate, signed into law the Water Infrastructure Protection Act.  (In reality, it should have been called the Water Infrastructure Profiteering Act).  It allows fast-tracking of the selling of water systems all over the state to private companies, supposedly to get more revenue into the system to repair water systems.  Almost all of New Jersey's water systems are in an "emergency status", desperately needing repair.  Opponents to the bill say it will create increased water bills of customers as a result of these private companies passing along the costs of repairs.

This bill is not a recent thing.  Six years ago, Trenton, New Jersey's capital, voted against privatizing its water system by a whopping 4-1 vote.  In a referendum vote during the 2014 mid-term elections, residents in a tiny borough in Sussex County also voted overwhelmingly to reject a sale of its water system to private companies, while residents in the town of Haddonfield voted in favor of such a move.

The broad, and eerie, similarity?  Residents, under the Water Infrastructure Protection Act, get no say in these decisions.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's office just released 11,000 pages of E-mails that were sent among various parties regarding the situation in Flint, after a request under the Freedom of Information Act. (Nothing like some light reading for the weekend.)  If you wish to look at the related documents, you can find them here.

At his State of the State speech on January 19 of this year, Gov. Snyder said he would release more E-mails relative to the crisis in Flint; he did so the next day.  It was not the 11,000-page data dump that just happened, but it was over 270 pages then.  While it remains to be seen what the recent release reveals, the January release showed a clear intent of the Snyder administration to wash its hands of any culpability.  Gov. Snyder's former Chief of Staff, Dennis Muchmore, wrote that the people of Flint were responding "by looking for someone to blame instead of working to reduce anxiety" and trying to "shift responsibility to the state".  Gov. Snyder also wrote, on a separate date, that he was unaware of two children who were being monitored due to high blood-lead levels.

While no date has been set, Gov. Snyder will testify before the U.S. House Oversight Committee on the crisis in Flint, after accepting an offer from committee chairman, Representative Jason Chaffetz.  (Snyder has claimed that he requested the opportunity.)  Another person testifying at the hearing will be Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  In addition, investigations are under way by both Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Another problem in this debacle is financial.  Not the financial crisis that brought about the appointment of an Emergency Manager, but an individual and city-wide financial crisis.  Just from a purely consumer level, you would not want to pay, or keep paying, for a defective product, would you?  Of course not.  As a commodity, the water provided is paid for, to whatever extent, in each and every town in the U.S., by that town's  residents ... namely, water bills.  Water that poisons people (especially children permanently), corrodes pipes, and is unsafe to use, is, in essence, a defective product. And yet, Flint residents have received, and continue to receive, bills for water that they were told they cannot use.

© Associated Press
(** NOTE: In the above video, the dollar amount of the proposed bill is stated as $3,000,000. Several other news sources state that the dollar amount is, in fact, $30,000,000.)

The bill, which would be used for reimbursement relief, did pass the state Senate earlier this month -- as of this posting, the state House has yet to act on it -- but Gov. Snyder, who put forth the bill, did so as part of the state's 2016-2017 fiscal year budget.  The 2016-2017 fiscal year doesn't begin until October 1st.

Representatives of the EPA who are on-site in Flint said, as of a week ago, that the water in Flint is beginning to get better, but their sampling has been far more limited at this point.  They relayed results of water samples taken from ten different homes, highlighting eight of those results -- eight out of over 51,000 residences city-wide -- with water-lead levels varying from very low or negligible to 400 ppb.  (Remember, the safe limit is 15 ppb.)  Such a small sampling is a good sign, but hardly a cause for relief.

There has been a case made that this crisis was the result of institutional racism, as Flint's population is mostly black.  I believe there is a valid argument there, but I would also say, without attempting to discount such claims, that what has happened to Flint is also the result of institutional classism.  If you look at other cities in Michigan where the Governor has appointed Emergency Managers (i.e. Detroit, Saginaw, Pontiac), you will find that their populations are also mostly black.  (Detroit, over 80%; Saginaw, around 45%; Pontiac, over 50%.)  You will also find that those same cities are economically struggling, often termed as "economically depressed".

In other words, if you are not white or are not financially well-off, whether an individual or a whole city, too bad.  Whether you call it racism or classism, both are correct and either one, let alone both, is utterly unacceptable.

I think there are several individuals and entities at fault here.  One would be the EPA.  While they are now part of the solution, their jumping into action when they initially should have (by simply going on the word of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) was unnecessarily delayed.  The MDEQ is highly to blame for its absence of attention and outright lying about the crisis, as are all of the Emergency Managers appointed to Flint.  An interesting side note: Flint's fourth and final EM, Darnell Earley, said that the Flint City Council was to blame for switching to Flint River water, not him. (Now, remember, Flint City Council votes on this matter held no authority under the Emergency Manager, and, in fact, no such vote ever took place.)

And then, there is Governor Rick Snyder, who executed and presided over the systematic dismantling of democracy by saying with his actions that, in effect, those who should have had a say, did not.  The investigations by state Attorney General Bill Schuette and the U.S. Department of Justice may result in multiple charges being brought against Snyder and others.

Yes, there is more than enough blame to go around.  What remains, however, is the population of Flint.  Children, how many is not yet known, are/will be permanently harmed.  Other residents have been, and continue to be, harmed, inconvenienced, and disenfranchised.  That should never, under any circumstances, be acceptable.  What happened in Flint is immoral and unethical.  What happened in Flint is a man-made disaster and a crisis for Flint, as well as a dark hour for Michigan, for politics in general, and for the United States as a whole.

Here are some steps that need to happen: Mayor Karen Weaver and the Flint City Council must get all of its authority restored.  That has happened, somewhat.  The Receivership Transition Advisory Board, first put into place in April of last year, granted limited powers to be returned to Mayor Weaver only three weeks ago, but it is limited and has the mayor still answering to the Board.  There exists a proposed Board resolution to grant the mayor authority to appoint a City Administrator and the heads of all of Flint's executive departments, with all of those individuals reporting to the mayor.  That resolution has not yet been brought up for a vote by the Board.

A shake-up at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality must take place in order to get more responsible individuals doing their jobs properly in place.  By saying "more responsible", I mean more responsible to the residents, not politicians.

Another step that is far overdue is replacing piping and service lines throughout the city of Flint.  As you saw in yesterday's town hall videos, there are ample people in place to do it, but the state must give the green light first.  That, still, has not happened.

Ongoing distribution of water filters, and replacement filters for inside them, needs to be maintained. Residents must continue to use them until the water is safe to drink and use.  (Of course, the residents there do not need me to tell them that.)

All the residents of Flint, at least all of the children, must be monitored on an ongoing basis, seeing as they were poisoned.  To what extent -- how many and how severely -- is unknown, but what is already in place must be expanded.  If a monetary fund, as is being requested, is required to do that, then establish that fund.

The stepping down of Governor Rick Snyder also needs to happen.  He is attempting to strike a noble pose by saying the problem happened under his watch and he wants to be part of its resolution.  If he created the problem by silencing the voice of the victims, then his voice should be silenced while the problem is being fixed.

Finally, the state's Emergency Manager Law, which has been on the books since 1988, and was expanded two years later, must be repealed.  (To that extent, at the very least, the Michigan state legislature in 1990, when the law was expanded, and its then-Governor, James Blanchard, also carry some of the blame here.)  This atrocity must never be allowed to happen again.

The crisis in Flint is not the only one of its kind in America, water supply-related or otherwise. Other cities that may have not received the same type of recognition nationally to the extent Flint has are no less important; it is likely simply the scale of those situations is the biggest (if not the only) difference.  It has shed light on the institutional malfeasance in this country -- yes, it goes on far beyond one city in Michigan -- as well as the ongoing issues of racism and classism.  Additionally, the chipping away at democracy in this country is undeniably part and parcel of what has happened.

There will be more to say on this crisis, but I will end here with this:  Call it what you will, whether ignorance or intent or both, or something else entirely, it is no great stretch of one's understanding to see that the residents of Flint, Michigan, deserved better ... far, far better ... but did not receive it.  To see this as acceptable, however, would be a great stretch.

Governor Rick Snyder and his administration, including the MDEQ, made that stretch quite easily.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Measurement of the Day: PARTS PER BILLION [Part 2 of 3]

[This is part two of my three-part series on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.] 


Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose declared on April 29, 2015, that Flint's financial crisis was over, and he stepped down.  However, all decisions regarding Flint were now the function of a Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

That Summer, a group called The Coalition for Clean Water filed an injunction against the use of Flint River water, seeking a return to water from Detroit.  A federal judge rejected the injunction.  Just days later, a memo written by an EPA "rogue employee" regarding Flint is leaked.  Written by Miguel Del Toral, the memo addresses the seriousness of Flint's water crisis and his serious concerns about the lack of corrosion treatment.  Remember, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had told the EPA they were addressing the issue.  Eventually, Lee Anne Walters got in touch with Del Toral and filled him in on what she knew first-hand about the water crisis.

About two-and-a-half weeks later, while speaking with Lindsey Smith on Michigan Radio, an MDEQ spokesperson addressed the leaked memo saying the following:
          "...anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax.
          It does not look like there is any broad problem with the water supply freeing
          up lead as it goes to homes."  

In August of 2015, the State of Michigan revises two water sample reports put out by the City of Flint by omitting two of the water samples cited in the report.  One of the two samples was from Lee Ann Walters' home, which was the highest in lead content out of the entire collection of samples taken. Their argument was that Walters used a water filter on her tap which could have lowered the count, akin to tampered evidence in a trial.  The revised, two-samples-fewer report put the final total number below that which would have triggered a federal response to lead in a city's water supply. 

Researchers from Virginia Tech University began testing water samples from all over Flint.  A total of 300 samples were collected and tested.  On September 19, their report is released.  The researchers found high levels of lead in the water supply throughout Flint.  The EPA regards water with lead levels of 5,000 ppb and above as hazardous waste.  Lee Ann Walters' home was included in the Virginia Tech University study.  The lead level in her water was 13,200 ppb ... 880 times the safe level!

Enter pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.  Very shortly after the Virginia Tech report is released, Dr. Hanna-Attisha releases research she has done regarding blood-lead levels in children in Flint. Those levels had been steadily rising.  Prior to switching to Flint River water, her research reveals, just over two percent of children in Flint had elevated blood-lead levels.  After the switch, that number had almost doubled to four percent.  Dr. Hanna-Attisha noted that lead is a neurotoxin, which has been known for a very, very long tim, and can affect adults and children.  However, the developing brains of children are far more susceptible to irreparable damage, which can include ADHD and a lower IQ, among other issues.  If Lee Ann Walters' situation can be considering the firing off of a rocket in garnering attention, consider Dr. Hanna-Attisha's contribution as booster jets.

The Snyder administration dismissed her report.

Less than a week later, Governor Rick Snyder admits mistakes were made in the planning and execution of using Flint River water.  The next day, Genesee County, where Flint is, declares a public health emergency in Flint, with a plan to distribute water filters to residents.  And the day after that, MDEQ Director Dan Wyant states that Flint did use corrosion control measures, in conflict with a previous State of Michigan statement to the contrary and the EPA memo.  The same MDEQ spokesperson who said that residents "can relax", offered a clarification ... lime, a water softening and corrosion control substance, was added to the water supply.  Experts, in response, say an addition of lime would be insufficient to address the corrosion issue and there never was a plan in place to deal with the crisis.

On October 6, 2015, distribution of 24,000 water filters, provided by the state, the Genesee County Health Department, and the United Way is begun.  Two days later, Governor Snyder says that Flint will go back to Detroit's water system, at a cost of $12,000,000.  Both the State and the Mott Foundation will contribute $10,000,000, while Flint will have to contribute $2,000,000.

On October 16, 2015, Flint was hooked back up with the Detroit water system.  Officials say it will take up to three weeks for all of the water to be fully from Detroit.  Whether or not lead levels in the water will go back down remains unknown.

In November, Flint mayor Dayne Walling lost his re-election bid as Karen Weaver is voted in to replace him; she is sworn in the following week.  Later that month, Flint residents file a class action lawsuit against the state and Flint government employees, focusing on health issues and property damage as a result of using Flint River water.  They seek a settlement to establish a fund for ongoing medical monitoring for residents.

Five weeks after being sworn in, new mayor Karen Weaver officially declares a state of emergency in Flint, citing irreversible damage to children from drinking Flint River water.  Remember how the Emergency Managers were appointed by Governor Snyder?  Well, later that same week, cable channel MSNBC host Rachel Maddow broke the story of how Governor Snyder is, indeed, culpable in this mass poisoning.

Ms. Maddow has stayed on top of this story and just two weeks ago, she hosted a live town hall from Flint titled An American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Measurement of the Day: PARTS PER BILLION [Part 1 of 3]

[Today begins a three-part series on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.]


One of the keys to life is water.  We cook with it; we bathe with it; we wash things with it; we drink it.  If the water is dirty, we might try to filter and clean the water to be able to use it.  If the water is contaminated, we would not do any of those things with it.

Saving money is a good thing; families and individuals try to budget their money to make ends meet.  Businesses and governmental entities try to save money as well.  Sometimes, the cost-cutting measures are effective means of budgetary restraint.  Sometimes, they come at a serious cost, either to product quality ... or human life itself.

It is in Flint, Michigan, where saving money and a threat to human life have intersected.

Beginning in December of 2011, a string of Governor-appointed Emergency Managers (EM) were put in charge of Flint due to the city's financial crisis.  All of the EMs reported to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.  They had no requirements, as EMs, to go through or to inform the mayor or townspeople of their decisions ahead of time.  No discussions, no engagement.  The people of Flint had no say in decisions made and actions taken by its Emergency Managers.  The first EM was Michael Brown.

Near the end of 2013, officials from Michigan's Treasury Department meet with officials from Flint to discuss water supply options to cut costs -- stay with what they had or change to the Karegnondi Water Authority.  Using the Flint River was discussed at that meeting, but staying the course or changing to the Karegnondi Water Authority were to be the only two options to be researched.  A report of the meeting was released two months later.  One month after the report was released, Flint's city council votes in favor of switching to Karegnondi.  It will require a pipeline project that will take two-and-a-half years to complete.

Flint used to get its water from the Detroit water system.  In the mid-1960s, Detroit entered into a contract with Flint to supply its water.  The agreement could be legally terminated, if so chosen, only after the passing of thirty-five years; the thirty-five years had elapsed in 2010.  In the Spring of 2013, three years past the mandatory thirty-five year period, even though it wanted to keep the agreement in effect, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) chose to end the contract, giving Flint one-year's notice.  Michigan officials spun it in a way to make it look like Detroit had abandoned Flint when, in fact, the DWSD's decision was in response to the Emergency Manager making his own decision on water suppliers.   

Under their second Emergency Manager at that time, Ed Kurtz, the city council's vote to go with Karegnondi held no weight.  Nonetheless, Kurtz did sign off on going with Karegnondi.  It then turns out that the pipeline project will not be done in a year's time, leaving Flint to negotiate a new contract with its current supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, or to find a temporary supplier in the interim.  

Just over two months later, in June of 2013, Ed Kurtz, apparently in an attempt to find a temporary water source, hires an engineering company, Lockwood, Andrews & Newman to equip the already-existing Flint River water treatment plant.  Four days later, Ed Kurtz stepped down as EM, a move he had announced a month earlier.  Michael Brown, the first EM in this situation, returns as EM.  Just two months later, Brown resigns, citing family issues as his reason.

Three weeks later, Darnell Earley, who had served as interim Mayor for Flint in 2002, becomes its next Emergency Manager.  Fast forward to the Spring of 2014.  Roughly a month before the one-year notice given by Detroit to end supplying water to Flint had expired, Earley writes the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, stating that there will be no need to enter into a new contract, as the Flint River water treatment plant will be fully operational before the almost-expired contract ends. 

It might be good to stop for just a moment to ask, with everything going on, why not just stay hooked up with Detroit until the new pipeline is in place and operational?  Maybe the answer lies in the fact that the city of Detroit is also under the authority of a Governor-appointed Emergency Manager.

In early April, Michigan's environmental regulators approved the move to using Flint River water, and by late April, the city's water supply was now coming exclusively from the Flint River.
                                                                © WNEM-TV

Within weeks, residents complained about the water quality ... its discoloration and smell, as well as making residents sick.
                                                            © Michigan Radio

Now that's funny: The water at the first day from Flint River looks different than weeks later...

Two-and-a-half months after the Flint River became the town's sole water source, its water tested positive for E. coli, with the town issuing several boil-your-water-before-using advisories.  Chlorine is added to combat the bacteria.  By the Fall, a General Motors engine plant stops using Flint River water, citing the additional chlorine would cause corrosion to engine parts.

Over the course of two weeks, beginning on January 2, 2015 ...
Flint is found to be in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act by the state's Department of Environmental Quality (from the presence of cancer-causing total trihalomenthanes (TTHM) resulting from the treatment of the water);
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says the water is safe to drink;
The University of Michigan-Flint found some water samples from on campus to be high in lead;
Emergency Manager Darnell Earley says Flint will not go back to getting water from Detroit;
and then, EM Earley is reappointed to be Emergency Manager of the Detroit Public School System. 
Earley is replaced by Jerry Ambrose, who had served Flint as a financial advisor under the first and second Emergency Managers, Michael Brown and Ed Kurtz.  (Remember those guys?)

In late February, Flint tested the water of resident Lee Anne Walters, a mother of four, and the results showed the water in her house contained 104 parts per billion (ppb) of lead.  The Environmental Protection Agency's safe limit of lead in water is fifteen ppb; Walters' water was seven times the safe limit.  The test of her home's water would be only the first of several to be conducted by the city of Flint.  The following week, her water was tested again –– this time the lead level had risen from 104 ppb to 397 ppb, nearly 183 times the safe level,
A bottle of Walters' tap water

All of the then-current results from Flint prompt the Environmental Protection Agency to inquire about the city's efforts to combat the situation.  Steve Busch, who was a district supervisor from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, sends an E-mail to the EPA stating that they are executing what he described as an "optimized corrosion control plan", which included pumping phosphates and other chemicals to essentially coat over the internal pipes corrosion.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was, in fact, doing nothing.

On March 23, 2015, the Flint City Council votes 7-1 in favor of making any and all possible efforts to reconnect with Detroit for water.  Keep in mind, though, under the appointed Emergency Manager, this vote carries no authority.  The children of Lee Anne Walters, whose water was the first tested in Flint, had experienced stomach issues, some hair loss, and rashes since the previous year.  The month following the Flint City Council's vote, Walters learned that one of her young sons, age 4, had lead poisoning.  The city discovers that the lead is in Walter's house's service line that is connected to the city's water system.

The city's (EM's) solution?  Shut off Walters' service line and hook her house up to a neighbor's garden hose.