At the Ludington City Council meeting held the evening of May 8, 2017, a concerned citizen who has brought up the lead issue in Ludington waters for a couple of years to the lead-deafened ears of the council had a different tactic last night and brought a couple of visual aids to make his point.
One was a small lead gooseneck pipe section, clipped off so that it was only about 6 inches long, clean but showing a little bit of oxidation from a recent soaking. The other was a 16 oz. plastic bottle that one would normally use for water, filled with some yellow fluid, with a couple red skull-and-crossbones drawn up on the side. My comment was the first that night, following the recognition of some local girl (daisy) scouts.
XLFD: "I look at the young Daisy Scouts that were gathered here to be recognized and commended by our city council and cannot help but wonder whether their health and welfare is being ignored and compromised by these same councilors. As recounted in the minutes of the last meeting you are set to approve tonight, I alerted this council to a sawed-off lead gooseneck unearthed from the recent water system work in the Fourth Ward, at this meeting I decided to bring it in to show you and issue a challenge to anybody on the council.
As our water utility superintendent has duly noted, these lead goosenecks are plentiful throughout the city. As recent lead tests of our children have shown, the Ludington area has led the state in elevated blood lead levels since 2013. Despite this, the council has been on record stating lead and lead pipes in our city water system is not a problem. If you were the parent of a Daisy Scout, I hope you would see it as a problem; these issues can cause irreversible development problems. Please remember, once lead gets into your own system, you can't get rid of it.
I washed all the dirt, sedimentation and oxidation off of this lead pipe that was supplying some Fourth Ward building with water earlier this year. Last night, I steeped the pipe section in a bowl filled up with tap water from my old Third Ward house and put it in this water bottle this afternoon. The yellow color is not natural, I added some food coloring so that I would not accidentally drink the leaded water. I also put a skull and crossbones on the side so nobody else would drink it.
As far as I know, I have no lead in my supply lines, but my water does have a little bit of a chlorine taste, and our water plant admits it does add some chlorine to the water. So you have to presume some negative chloride ions were floating about and attracting some positive lead ions from the pipe over that 16 hour period.
At a previous meeting, Councilor Krauch announced he thought the water in Ludington was the best tasting water he ever had. It should be noted that lead paint chips also are reputed to taste great, lead compounds having a sweet taste kids love. But lead salts and lead ions in water are poisonous and so tonight I offer Councilor Krauch, or any other officer before me who believes lead pipes in the Ludington water system is not a problem, to drink from my water bottle and show the rest of the citizens that you stand behind your words. I assure you, it's nothing more than your water in contact for less than a day with a lead gooseneck from your water system, with a little yellow food coloring thrown in.
Who wants to take up the challenge?" [End of comment].
Frankly, I had expected nobody on the council to take up this dare, being that I offered up some strange colored liquid in a bottle with the international symbol of poisonous material in bright scarlet on the sides, but then... well, I'll let Kevin Braciszeski tell what happened from his viewpoint, as printed on page 2 in today's City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) after photographer Colton Mokofski memorialized the event:
Right after the meeting, I let Mayor Holman in on the secret that she had nothing to fear about the water, being that it was just yellow food coloring in bottled water, not the water I had steeped the lead pipe in. At the meeting, she was warned before taking her drink not to do it by other officials, as only I knew what was actually in the bottle; however, she related that she trusted me enough not to have offered something that could have done her harm. Maybe you noticed from the picture that she took less than an ounce of my offering into her cup, discretion being the better part of valor.
Had she been like the rest of the city officials, and deferred the quaff from my proffered flask, I would have definitely proved my point that the officials are content with letting citizens cluelessly drink from water taps that are supplied by sections of lead pipe in the city water system that are six times longer than the pipe I brought in, but wouldn't do the same themselves.
There would be good reason not to. I am in the process of getting my pipe-steeped water tested for lead content. Sixteen hours of contact between a lead pipe and a quart of city water should yield a result well above contamination levels, but the test results will speak for themselves when I get them. The result will be at least equal to what a baby may experience if you don't flush your pipes for a couple of minutes each morning (see Tracking Lead from Ludington's Water System to Your Baby's Digestiv...).
But Mayor Kaye Holman's reasoning and unexpected bravery in accepting the bogus pint of amber hemlock was a good thing to happen in the cause of bringing the awareness of lead in Ludington water to the masses. Our leaders and local media have ignored or at best downplayed the elevated blood lead levels in our children since Shay has been in charge, and has relied on the misguided notion that the lead goosenecks in the city's water system are not his problem, but the adjacent homeowner's problem, even when the homeowner cannot affect anything beyond the shut-off valve to their building. This is a dangerous idea, because these goosenecks will only be replaced when they replace the old water mains, which fortunately is happening over the next few years in Ludington in some areas that need it.
And yet, there is likely a whole lot of areas in Ludington who will still have lead goosenecks leading to their buildings after all that, and they have no control over removing them. The mayor said that she thought I was too smart to let officials drink contaminated water and that she trusted I would not do something that foolish. "I drank it because it was there and he dared us."
Fortunately, I don't trust city leaders nor do I think they're too smart, for they dare let their citizens drink contaminated water when they have the ability to mitigate the issue.
I was thinking of a different movie, replete with bluffing, where the adage was: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line". Now, I don't know for certain whether her Honor did swallow any of the water, but it's pretty much academic at this point. Her compliance and statements help the cause of awareness.
If there was only about an ounce in the glass, it appears that at a 90 degree angle the liquid would be centered in the glass, not far enough to swallow it too. Perhaps she never did drink it. Did you check the glass afterward? Consumme Fermier anyone?