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Michigan Official Tried to Manipulate Lead Tests—Six Years Ago


Michigan Official Tried to Manipulate Lead Tests—Six Years Ago

Nika Knight, staff writer

A newly resurfaced email demonstrates that in 2008 an official from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) tried to game lead tests by suggesting that technicians collect extra water samples to make the average lead count for a community appear artificially low.


"Ya can't blame me for tryin" the Capitalist motto


I'm not one to be a conspiracy nut....but this makes me wonder just how long this has been happening and how many communities across the country are affected. What better way to dumb down the population than allowing lead into water for our children to drink. How many children across the country have learning disabilities because of lead poisoning? Slow children become slow adults, adults who will be less likely to look at things critically. At this point in time, nothing would surprise me anymore.


Lead affects not only IQ and ability to learn, but also judgement and the ability to control emotions and impulses. Herbert Needleman, MD, with the University of Pittsburgh, found that even low lead levels correlate with violent crime.

It really angers me that nothing is being done to help these children who will be affected for the rest of their lives by this criminal behavior on the part of the very people who were supposed to protect them -- which also does lead one into that conspiracy territory. But I doubt it's that, rather it's just the capitalist non-ethics system that has taken hold in this society.


I am a MI resident and have been following Flint primarily in the Detroit Free Press. No where has the distinction including those arrested or mentioned here whether they were political appointees or members of the civil service or even private contractors. The Republicans including the Governor have been trying to gut the civil service since taking over state government. Anyone know the answer?


Completely despicable. For god's sake, let's see some heads roll!


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As despicable as I consider the reaction to lead in the water (and do I ever!) I have a couple of major, major bones to pick with this story.

1 - Basic arithmetic skills. This would flunk a second grader. What is 115 divided by 15? A real, true second grader would have been able to answer 7-2/3 NOT 10. This declaration of 10 times the safe lead level is despicable arithmetic (not even lower math, so to speak). He the author stated it as slightly less that 8 times that would be an acceptable approximation, but not less than 10 times.

7.67 times is still massively too much and should have rung alarm bells regardless. Even 2 times (double) should have rung alarm bells. However, if you are writing this and getting the arithmetic that badly wrong you must have chosen writing because you were afraid of STEM courses or anything which even began to sound technical. If so, you should not be allowed to write on a technical subject if you can't look at the numbers and handle basic division. This should be obvious just looking at it, something anyone should be able to do in their head, any 2cd grader anyway. Okay, enough of my snark for now.

2 - The interpretation of the email. If Marc Edwards was shown that email and responded as reported then I am liable to give considerable weight to the "cover up" interpretation, simply because he has a lot of experience in this field and can read the email from an insider's view where the rest of us might not be as aware of the working-level meaning to these types of communications. However, I do have to note something a little different where I read the email directly. Doesn't mean this is not a cover up, just means a slightly different reading makes sense also.

That is that the person writing the email, Adam Rosenthal, is clearly on alert at the 115 ppb (parts per billion) number, recognizing that this is way too high. However, the next request is exactly right, go back and get more data to really nail it down. His first question is whether this is a measuring error. Something I get all the time with spurious blood pressure readings. So I take more readings trying to get more consistent readings. In other words in the first part the guy is saying to be certain as he asks whether there is something in particular about the reading. From the implied context I am guessing he is responding to a single-location measurement, which appears anomalous compared to other measurements and wants to know whether that is peculiar for some reason (he mentions some possibilities). On the other hand if this was an overall average of measurements this would be damaging just as is. That could be too.

Assuming that single-location anomaly threw this alert it could well be a measurement error or something peculiar with that location or it could also be the canary in the coal mine which exposes something just under the radar for the other locations. At this point he can't be certain which. (unless, as I noted, this is really an averaged set of measurements across a set of locations which totally changes the picture)

The ending note in the paragraph I read as ambiguous and could mean "cover it up" as much as it could mean, "sigh, we will have to go on alert." On the "sigh" inference I could also read this as "Before calling an alert, give this more attention to determine the reason for the measurement and to determine whether this reveals a wider problem." Talking about percentiles distracts from a simple request to just strengthen the data, which would make me feel a bit better about the email.

Regardless, if you are going to call in the alert and emergency actions and all that goes with this you want to show up with something more substantial than a single measurement, especially if it doesn't show up elsewhere. Again, I am surmising a context from what seems implied because this email doesn't tell me how many measurements over what period of time and across what locations he was looking or at how the measurements are made, nor does the article develop this point.

3 - Nota - I am not denying that this could well be a cover up instruction in veiled messaging text. It certainly could be and in that aspect I noted Marc Edwards' reported reaction. What I am really responding to, as a former reporter and as a long, long time database programmer, is the limited scope of inference of the writer or writers (as this is a diluted copy from The Guardian).

I've taught too many basic HTML classes and other very light tech classes over the years in which I've had all too many Comm Studies people who were clearly intimidated by tech (HTML) that I describe as the equivalent of knowing how to change your oil as opposed to higher level tech would would be more like being able to tear down your engine and rebuild it.

In other words I've watched all too many persons go into writing in order to avoid even light tech. The problem shows when they get into technical stories, such as this one where they can't even handle simple arithmetic, let alone stats and chemistry, and an understanding of data gathering and how to make a case based on a comprehensive understanding of that data.


Here Barack, you look a bit sweaty. Why don't you cool down with this glass of water before climbing aboard that Air Force helicopter and go back home?