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At Least 33 US Cities Used Water Testing 'Cheats' Over Lead Concerns (theguardian.com) 101

An anonymous reader writes: In an exclusive report via The Guardian, investigators found there to be at least 33 cities across 17 U.S. states that have used water testing "cheats" in an effort to cover up potentially dangerous levels of lead. The investigation was launched after the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and found that 21 of these cities used the same water testing methods that resulted in criminal charges against three government employees in Flint. Such cities include Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee. The Guardian reports: "The Guardian investigation concerned thousands of documents detailing water testing practices over the past decade. They include: Despite warnings of regulators and experts, water departments in at least 33 cities used testing methods over the past decade that could underestimate lead found in drinking water. Officials in two major cities -- Philadelphia and Chicago -- asked employees to test water safety in their own homes. Two states -- Michigan and New Hampshire -- advised water departments to give themselves extra time to complete tests so that if lead contamination exceeded federal limits, officials could re-sample and remove results with high lead levels. Some cities denied knowledge of the locations of lead pipes, failed to sample the required number of homes with lead plumbing of refused to release lead pipe maps, claiming it was a security risk."
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At Least 33 US Cities Used Water Testing 'Cheats' Over Lead Concerns

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  • Aha (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So thats why Americans are so fucking stupid. I thought it was the pathetic education system, but lead makes sense.
    Explains Drumpf too.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Never would have happened under Stalin.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      People mock me for distilling my drinking water before I drink it. Stories like this make me feel even more justified (though the nasty sludge that my tap water leaves behind after distillation is more than enough justification as it is).

      There is a large group of people who insists that pure water is going to leach minerals from your body (which is true...in amounts so trivial so to have zero impact...eat one bite of brocolli and you are good for a month). Some insist that it is acidic (which is also true

      • the nasty sludge that my tap water leaves behind after distillation is more than enough justification as it is.

        If you analyse that "sludge" you will likely find that it is 99% calcium carbonate ... which is good for you.

      • Some insist that it is acidic (which is also true...it has a ph of 5.5 to 6,

        Pure water has a pH of 7. You cannot have the excess of hydrogen ions necessary to have a pH below 7 in pure water without having the requisite hydroxide to balance it. It's amazing how it works that way; H2O splits into one H+ and one OH- every time. And if you have something driving the equilibrium of that reaction towards excess H+, then the water isn't pure. I'd guess you've got dissolved CO2, but who knows?

        Nearly 10,000 times less acidic than soda pop

        10,000 times is 4 pH units. "10,000 times more acidic than pure water" would be a pH of 3. But

        • You are wrong. (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As soon as you expose pure water to air, it absorbs carbon dioxide and the PH drops.

          one source [stuart-equipment.com] of many if you care to look.

          Each ph level is 10x more acidic. So if the ph is 6, down to 5 is 10, down to 4 is 100, down to 3 is 1000, down to 2 is 10,000. The math is right given that the poster said "5.5 to 6" and "nearly 10,000 times."

          So, your facts are wrong and your reading comprehension could use a bit of work.

          • As soon as you expose pure water to air, it absorbs carbon dioxide and the PH drops.

            When pure water absorbs an impurity it is no longer pure water, and of course the pH may change. As I pointed out, "I'd guess you've got dissolved CO2, but who knows?" The fact remains, pure water has a pH of 7. His claim that he has pure water with a pH of 5.5 to 6 is nonsense, and bad science. This is a forum for technically literate people, and to allow this kind of mistake to go uncorrected is silly.

            one source of many if you care to look.

            Did you read that "source"? It actually says that the pH of pure water is 7. It then explains why the out

  • After all, Dem's at the local level or state level are not allowed to be held accountable, only the first republican on the food chain as Snyder and W. can attest to.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And the Republicans will try to avert blame however possible, even after having passed a law specifically to stop the city from removing the governor-appointed special manager.

      And the Libertarians will point out that this would never have been a problem with private enterprise because if a company lied to you about the lead poisoning you could easily have paid some other company to install pipe to bring you water that isn't poisonous, and the fact that you didn't means that you were ok with being secretly p

      • by gcswt ( 4309907 )
        STRAW MAN. If a company was providing you dangerous water knowingly and intentionally tested to avoid detecting it, you could sue them for damages and people could be held criminally liable. Libertarians hold civil courts as one of the government's primary functions and thus this would be a better situation in libertarian political system because of legal accountability.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The appointed special manager is a Democrat. Actually, all of them (Flint has needed special managers multiple times due to fiscal incompetence) have been Democrats.
        The city council, which fail to perform the maintenance on the city's water system, is entirely Democrats.
        The EPA is supervised by Democrats, and is part of a Democratic administration.

        There are no Republicans involved in the managing of the city, or of the water switchover. It just happens to be in a state with a Republican governor, so embar

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Surely Republican President Calvin Coolidge is to blame. We never recovered from his mishandling of the Teapot Dome Scandal. Who can be expected to honestly follow water testing protocols in light of that injustice?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I know it's troll bait, but in point of fact Republicans should be held accountable. Republicans are so obsessed by "small government" and cutting budgets that horrible outcomes are inevitable. It's the public sector version of slum landlords with infested housing where infants get bitten by rats.

        Do I even have to mention Flint? State intervention and cost cutting by appointed ideological "commissars" were the direct cause of mass lead poisoning. Just because you can find some low level chump who signed o

        • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday June 02, 2016 @10:25PM (#52238835)

          I know it's troll bait, but in point of fact Republicans should be held accountable. Republicans are so obsessed by "small government" and cutting budgets that horrible outcomes are inevitable.

          Yeah! How can anyone in Chicago be expected to follow water testing protocols when they had a Republican mayor as recently as 1931? That small government obsession lingers over a place for centuries! You can't expect any government employee in Chicago to do a productive day's work until at least the year 3000. After that it'll surely be a golden age.

        • Do I even have to mention Flint? â

          Please, do. In flint, high Union labor costs drove out the GM auto plant, killing the flint economy. (See rodger and me) When the democratically-controlled city of flint couldn't afford to get it's water supply from the democratically-controlled city of Detroit water system, they decided to put the old Flint municipal water system back on line, but it would take a couple years to get everything working correctly. When the democratically-controlled city of Detroit

          • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

            Big screed. Ultimately nothing but BS though.

            Unions didn't drive the plants out. Poor corporate decisions did in the face of cheaper but better made cars with better mileage from Japan and Korea, at a time that also coincided with frequent gas shortages.

            The ultimate thing that killed Flint and Detroit was not liberalism or democrats, but simple white flight.
            When the money moved out leaving behind mostly poor and low income people, that killed the tax revenues of the cities.

            but that's ok.
            facts have a hard ti

            • Unions didn't drive the plants out. Poor corporate decisions did in the face of cheaper but better made cars with better mileage from Japan and Korea...

              My family owned 100% Detroit-built cars in the 80s through about late 90s. We're pretty much all been driving Toyotas and Hondas since then. Nothing to do with Unions, everything to do with 7-10 years of minimal repairs and better gas mileage compared to disposable cars that cost too much to keep fixing after 5-7 years.

          • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

            http://www.dailykos.com/story/... [dailykos.com]

            The companies made unions the scapegoats for their own poor decisions.
            Odd how the unions are still there though.
            And the auto industry recovered (following a few bailouts).
            And American cars are as good as ever.

            http://www.examiner.com/articl... [examiner.com]

            Odd: Portland is consistently voted as one of the top places to live in America, with a thriving downtown, high rate of entrepreneurial activity, and a great place to raise a family.

            Portland is far more liberal than Detroit ever was.
            And its one of the best cities in the nation.

            Detroit's problems wasn't liberalism.
            It was the loss of its tax base.

            As a result of white flight following the migration of minorities migra

  • I lived in a few different states growing up. In one place, the tap water was blue. In another, it was green. You couldn't see the color easily until you say, filled a whole white bathtub with the stuff, but there was a perceivable color difference. I can't imagine that both would be considered really high quality if objectively tested. I worry that both might have been objectively low quality.

  • If you have a child, you would be insane to rely on public tests subject to political pressures and that may not reflect your particular household's water situation. Have your household water tested (you can collect a sample and send it to a lab) and test the water at your child's school. This is doubly true if your house or school are more than forty years old, although newer buildings are not a guaranty that the water supply lacks lead because there can be old pipes under the street.

    • If you have a child, you would be insane to rely on public tests

      i haven't heard any news about labs being flooded with water testing samples (get it, flooded) which means that 99.9999% of the population must be insane. congratulations to 5 couples that are not insane but a bit of bad news, WE'RE ALL CRAZY!

      • Lead pipes were banned in 1961.
        Lead solder use in plumbing was banned in 1987.

        So if your house was built after 1961, it is unlikely that you have much lead in your water, and if it was built after 1987, it is unlikely you have more than a trace. Most lead in drinking water comes from household plumbing, not from the water supply or distribution pipes.

        If you live in an older house, and have kids, or especially if you are planning to have kids, you should have your water tested. Lead is very damaging to dev

        • Lead pipes were banned in 1961.
          Lead solder use in plumbing was banned in 1987.

          So if your house was built after 1961, it is unlikely that you have much lead in your water, and if it was built after 1987, it is unlikely you have more than a trace. Most lead in drinking water comes from household plumbing, not from the water supply or distribution pipes.

          If you live in an older house, and have kids, or especially if you are planning to have kids, you should have your water tested. Lead is very damaging to developing fetal nervous systems.

          I am thinking of a wealthy suburban town on the east coast where the town plumber chatted with me for a while about all the lead plumbing under the streets. I agree it's generally quite unlikely, notably for newer homes, but $50 for a test is a small price to pay compared to the risk to a kid.

        • Those are federal ban dates. Both were out of common use _long_ earlier.

          I was taught to plumb with copper well before 1987; nobody would have considered using lead solder. Against all codes and standards; city, county, plumbers union. Never seen an actual lead pipe, perhaps in a museum.

          That was back when the federal government justified it's existence by banning things already banned, the good old days.

          It does appear some cities had two codes. One for them (their water departments more specifically),

        • The issue in Flint, and the issue in most Amerixan cities isn't 'the last mile' (so to speak) of the municipal water supply, it's the municipal 'backbone' that is the source for most lead/contamination issues. Remember, in flint, everything was fine until they switched water supplies, which caused them to add chemicals to treat the dirty water, and it was those chemicals that leeched lead out of the city water mains, poisoning the citizens and will ultimately require Flibt to dig up and replace their entir
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Thursday June 02, 2016 @05:52PM (#52237193) Journal
    No, I'm not trolling or kidding, I'm dead serious. If this is a widespread problem in the U.S., then could it be making people dumber and less emotionally stable?
    • Its no secret that it is, and its hardly the only thing doing it either.

    • Hmmm, that would explain Trump, and Hillary too! You may be onto something.
    • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Thursday June 02, 2016 @09:06PM (#52238473)

      Could this be why people seem to be getting dumber

      No, because by and large the lead has always been there. Flint is about the only exception, and that's because the amount of lead leeching out of the pipes increased with the change in water sources.

    • No, I'm not trolling or kidding, I'm dead serious. If this is a widespread problem in the U.S., then could it be making people dumber and less emotionally stable?

      We've allowed the education system to be corrupted by leftists who teach garbage. When 12 years of garbage collides with cold hard reality, stupidity and emotional instability are likely outcomes.

    • It's happened before. There's a reason they banned tetraethyl lead from gasoline, for example.
  • ... that such methods are prone to be exposed one day? :-)
  • by countach44 ( 790998 ) on Thursday June 02, 2016 @06:04PM (#52237305)
    One thing the article does not mention is the reason for pre-flushing is to ensure the sample is coming from water in distribution, not water that's been sitting in the lead pipes you have in your home or your connection to the city (which is very common in older cities). While Flint performed pre-flushing, they also made sure to test around the lead sites, it's not clear that is what is happening in these 33 cities.

    So, if the testers flush when collecting samples, perform the same flush before drinking tap water, that way you know you are drinking water at the levels measured. The most common objection I hear to this suggestion is "What a waste!" However, when you consider that water may not be safe to drink, you're not actually wasting drinking water. If you really are concerned about that water, you can save the water for plants and/or cleaning purposes. Watering your lawn is huge waste of water, running some water to clean pipes is not.

    What people should be worried about are endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), e.g. from birth control pills and hormones used in factory farming. To my knowledge, no city currently has the ability to test for or filter out EDCs. If the lead tests are coming back clean after flushing, that's great because it's easy to fix: just flush your lines before drinking. EDCs, not so much.

    Source: I know many who work for the water department, including chemists at the testing labs at one of the 33 cities listed in the article.
  • companies making money = Jobs. make lots of money, slowly kill people, cover it up, profit $.
  • The long standing argument is that private business and industry cannot self-regulate - and I largely agree with that.

    If that is really true, why do we expect that government will self-regulate the businesses/services that it provides?

    It would be best to have private industry compete to provide these services and then have government regulate those private industries. That should keep all the players honest - and the ones that aren't should end up in prison.

    • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @02:14AM (#52239787)
      Go out and buy a can of beans. Any kind: kidney, garbanzo, white, pinto, etc. Open the can and look at the amount of packing liquid vs the amount of beans. You will be lucky if the beans are 75% of the listed weight. Typically it's more like 66%, or even less.

      So much for looking to the "free market" for fair value. Your claim that the market empowers consumers is delusional. Without government oversight that can of beans would have a reasonable chance of killing you, either through bacterial infection or chemical poisoning. This is what is happening in China right now, where there is no meaningful government regulation.

      Given the disproportionate influence of big business on government right now, trusting corporate America is like trusting meth freaks. The free market is a tremendous piece of propaganda. What really runs the economic system are factions of monopolists and cartels that have eliminated almost all competition. This is enabled and maintained by a corrupt government.

      The only way this will change is if voters use their democratic power to take back control of the government. We need a government "of the people, by the people and for the people", not a government run solely for corporate interests.

      • I say in the very first sentence that businesses can not self-regulate.

        Next time you go on a liberal pro-big-government rant pause, then listen. The person you are lecturing may actually somewhat agree with you.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Did you just base your entire knowledge of economics on a literal can of beans? So, in your expert opinion, what is the proper liquid to content when canning beans?

    • That's a perfectly valid approach in many industries. However, water is generally the prime example of an industry which is a natural monopoly. The costs of installing water pipes and actually having multiple possible sources of water would be insane, and all the construction necessarily to maintain them would be crazy too. In this case the federal government setting minimum standards for local/state governments seems the best approach. It seems the main failure here (other than corruption) is that the test

      • Providing water service is a perfect example of private companies supplying a service that is regulated by the government.

        Here in NJ, many municipalities simply could not afford to maintain and upgrade their water infrastructure (why is a different discussion). Private operation of these municipal water systems were put out to bid.

        It's the best of both worlds. Private efficiency in operations and public accountability in cost and safety. I trust neither entity to do both jobs of supply and regulation.

      • Natural monopoly my ass. On my uncle's moisture farm we use vaporators to harvest water from the air!
    • On one hand, government isn't providing these services with a profit motive, so it has no imperative to cut corners and do all of the short-term-gain, long-term-loss things that regulation is intended to prevent.

      On the other hand, government isn't providing these services with a profit motive, so legitimate streamlining, efficiency, and innovation aren't necessarily an imperative either.

  • Any system where public safety is involved should include outside checks. But that might involve accountability, which is the last thing bureaucrats want.
  • People make fun of Texas, but water quality is one thing they take pretty seriously. It may taste like a swimming pool, but it won't kill you or damage brain cells. My company runs its own water well, and has to submit to TCEQ Pb/Cu testing twice a year. They have strict rules about when to sample, and how to sample. You take the sample first thing in the morning from a line that hasn't been used for 8 hours. You do not remove the aerator. You use only the cold water line. Then it's straight to the lab. The
    • There are rules on how testing is done in these cities too but there weren't following them. There is nothing stopping the person doing the test at your company from removing the aerator, running the water for a couple of minutes and then taking a sample. There's nobody from the lab or an inspection agency there to verify that the sample was taken properly. So if you company wanted to ensure that it didn't have to pay for a bunch of expensive water treatment equipment there's a pretty easy way to do that

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