Ludington City Council Meeting July 27, 2015, pt. 2: Fishbeck and Falsehoods

Pardon for the late release of this article on the eve of the next city council meeting, but it's midsummer in Ludington, and I've been awash in all sorts of things.   This is a look at alternate issues in the July 27 Ludington City Council meeting that came up in the second video below, the first part of this analysis was in part 1

This second part of the meeting, which took place after a five minute recess began with a discussion on the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and the unilateral hiring of Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber (aka "Fishbeck").  In part one, my opening comment referred to the city not having an up to date permit, an NPDES permit, and not using charter-mandated competitive bidding.

July 27, 2015 Ludington City Council pt 2 from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.

At (00:45) in, City Manager John Shay claims:  "Contrary to the comments, the city is legally operating under the old permit issued by the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality]." 

But is it?  Not according to FOIA responses I've received from the Michigan DEQ, and the MDEQ website.  Navigation on the official MDEQ website to the NPDES active permits get you here:

You will see the permit expired in 2011, just like I said, and there is a 'major flag' put on it, Oxychem, former Mayor John Henderson's bailiwick, also hasn't had one since 2011, and has a major flag.  Do any of the other 32 NPDES permits in Mason County have expired permits or major flags?  Nope, just those that John Henderson had/have some control of.

Is operating without a valid NPDES permit for four years legal?  Not according to the MDEQ:

So the NPDES is required by law for the Ludington WWTP to discharge wastewater into their Pere Marquette lagoon.  Shay and the City of Ludington's 57 attorneys have effectively and discretely kept our WWTP non-compliant with state standards for four years, as I noted.  I never said it was against the law, but it obviously is according to the DEQ, and it's obviously contrary to the public health and safety as I put forth. 

The City of Ludington has devoted many thousands of your tax dollars to covering up and trying to postpone this matter for as long as possible.  The MDEQ has allowed them to do so, also contrary to the laws of Michigan.  The WWTP has been putting unlawful amount of ammonia and other pollutants into standing water near the Pere Marquette River.  Is this what we want for us and our kids living here?  Shay lies, we dies.

He then tries to justify why hiring Fishbeck without bids to do the engineering work for the WWTP work is good for us.  This amounts to him saying that Fishbeck has been intimately involved in the process of the WWTP upgrades and NPDES permit over the last few years, which isn't part of the record.  The city council has not authorized Fishbeck to do this work, although they have been authorized to work on water treatment plant issues, this is their first official foray into the wastewater side.  Here's their record on that.

The city hired Fishbeck for a design engineering study of the Water Treatment Plant at the March 9, 2015 LCC Meeting without any competitive bids being performed, nor is there any credible reason why it would be clearly in the city's advantage. 

Fishbeck has a charmed life in the eyes of John Shay and the city, even when competitive bids are taken.  For even when other firms respond to Requests for Proposals (RFP) containing what needs exactly to be done, Fishbeck gets the contract even when they are not even in the first tier of bidders as regards price.

Fishbeck had been hired over seven other firms to do a Water reliability study on April 9, 2012 as seen in this comparison of bids:

And who could forget the Washington Avenue Bridge engineering tasks and the bidding process there.  Fishbeck got the same specifications as seven other companies, they offered their bid which was just under a quarter of a million dollars.  Our own Nordlund & Associates offered their services for about a quarter of Fishbeck's proposal to do the same work.  You may as well not even do competitive bidding if you perform it this way-- which is not competitive bidding.  But is the city council and all of our other officials that stupid not to know this?!

After passing a resolution to issue bonds up to $15 million to pay for the WWTP work, they then went through their proposed charter amendments, keying in on upping the city manager's 'term' to go five years rather than one year.  As usual, the proposed amendment makes our government less accountable to the people.

They then passed a drive-thru ordinance for the downtown area.  The city had previously ran the drive-in facilities out of town via their municipal powers back about a generation ago, it is nice they have dialed this intolerance back. 

They then capitulated on the dog beach issue, sending it back to committee for further research, saying that they were needing to review it more.  Methinks they were more intimidated by the contingent that came out for the measure, especially Mr. Spence Riggs and his new job (since May, 2015) as Economic Development Coordinator at the Mason County Growth Alliance. 

Mayor Cox set a special meeting for Thursday, August 13, dealing with the Rental Inspection Program (RIP).  Hopefully, at the end of this meeting, it will R.I.P., or better, be put on the ballot in 2016 because it is a tax, just like Obamacare.  

The meeting wound down with the usual schmoozing about events that went well, events to come, and back-patting.  To this oblivious crowd, the meeting went well even with the lack of Mayor Cox admitting his conflict of interest in the ORV/Golf Cart ordinances, the city manager lying about the NPDES permit, the cronyism showed yet once again to Fishbeck, etc. 

Business as usual at the Ludington City Hall.

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Business as usual, Amen. Thanks for the information. If the City is legally operating under the "old" permit then there must have been extensions granted. Did you find anything in your research that would indicate that? The idea that Ludington's leaders think that freely dumping untreated waste and sh_t along with other pollutants is acceptable shows a true lack of concern for the publics health and welfare. The next turd that floats by you while your swimming in Lake Michigan will be a gift from Shay and the gang.

I have seen a lot of negotiations between the City, the DEQ and even with the MI DNR, which has been peripherally involved due to the state's property holdings near the outflow.  I am confident I have seen much more than any city councilor has about the topic. 

I don't think it can really be called an extension, since not even a temporary NPDES permit has been acknowledged.  But what it means is that the city is not in compliance with the minimums of getting a permit with the conditions it needed on 2011, due primarily to elevated levels of ammonia during the summer and other stuff.  While I don't know whether "I Love Canal Ludington" is going to be the new catchphrase for Ludington's WWTP, I think it would be appropriate for Oxychem, since they were the guilty parties in the original Love Canal incident back in the 1970s.

I challenge John Shay to release all the records on this debacle, so we can filter through it and decide its legality and see exactly what concerns he and our public safety/futility committee has had. 

Maybe the Cities leaders can put that in their "I love Ludington" campaign. Nothing promotes an area like a picture of crap piled on shredded toilet paper or a fish biting on a hook with a turd as bait.

"You will see the permit expired in 2011, just like I said, and there is a 'major flag' put on it, Oxychem, former Mayor John Henderson's bailiwick, also hasn't had one since 2011, and has a major flag.  Do any of the other 32 NPDES permits in Mason County have expired permits or major flags?  Nope, just those that John Henderson had/have some control of."

In good old Tom Rotta fashion a typical lack of understanding and research shows itself once again. 

What "Major Flag" mean

On a possible dovetail of info.: I have personally witnessed two salmon of recent weeks at Copeyan with a goyder or large cist on the side of the fish. I have never seen this before in over 32 years of fishing around Ludington and Lk. Michigan. The last fish also had some internal unknown growth in the center, about the size of two fingers. I set both fish aside in the freezer for the DNR to inspect and analyze. Could this be some contagious condition that is dangerous for human consumption, and directly related to the COL improperly dumping waste into the PM River? I just wonder.....and if so.....can COL be liable for this act? 


Take some pictures and let others take a look before the DNR comes around, maybe bring them to the next council meeting.  Not that they wouldn't feel at home with the encysted flounders on the council, but it might bring the point home that the public health and safety is at risk.

Let the DNR know when they come that you or your pumpkin friend will be very interested in their conclusions.


Please explain how this 27 year old document with no letter head applies to what Mr. Rotta has presented.


Your link is a 1988 interoffice memo for the federal EPA which never mentions the term 'flag'. 

Also, it would not describe why Occidental Chemical Company has a major flag-- it is not publicly owned, and it does not have enough flow capacity (or service more than 10,000 people).  In good old troll fashion, a typical lack of understanding and research. 

The MDEQ and other sources really do not define the 'major flag' definition, so if you or anyone can actually find a reliable source that defines it better than my general understanding, I would love to share it to further our knowledge.

It's not hard people

There is a point system/work sheet to determine what industrial locations get the "major flag", it also has the option to request a major flag even if it doesn't earn enough points to get one on it's own.

And who knows if you have a point about the permit being expired or not... but when you run off at the mouth about how the city and a salt plant are related because the former mayor worked at each and they each have a "major flag" on the EPA permit... you should be made to look the fool that you are.

So you've now went back 35 years, submitted another federal EPA memo that never mentions anything about "flags" again.  Be careful, next time you are likely to come forth with something that predates the Clean Water Act and the NPDES.

Mayor Henderson sat in the Ludington mayor's chair and an executive position in Ludington Oxychem's Administration Building during the time when both permits expired-- still the only NPDES permits in the county, Lake County, and Oceana County that have been allowed to expire.  That fact is somewhat significant, isn't it? 

Perhaps if Mayor Henderson and his incompetent neighbor devoted more time in his twelve years to the city's infrastructure rather than the whimsical and the circuses, we wouldn't have had the devil to pay after their negligence caught up with them.

1. it would be 25 years, 2015-1990= 25   but your only a math major, wouldn't expect you to actually be able to subtract :)

2. according the the EPA's website these are the documents and forms they currently use when filling out permits. If you would like to take issue with them being 25 years old then feel free. 

You are right about one thing, Junno, this document was from 1990.  The stamped date at the top sure looks like 1980 though, doesn't it?

Perhaps you may want to review the MDEQ website and see whether you can find something that explains what a "major flag" is.  I've been through and couldn't find anything, however, there was a strong correlation between cities and businesses without NPDES permits and those that had "major flags".  For that I took it as a reference to "red" flags-- and if it isn't defined thusly it should be explained in some public document less than 25 years old and issued by the state's permitting authority.


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