Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sounding the Alarm - Flint, MI

It's been over three years since I last posted on this blog. Originally, I started this in order to promote my favorite sport, flyball. People who play flyball sometimes are so passionate about their views that they "forget" that opinions are just opinions. They are not facts. So, I liked to poke fun when things got too serious.

But, a blog is also a public forum and I can be as serious as necessary if I believe something serious is happening. I believe that to be true today, in Flint, MI.

I have a friend who just happens to live in Flint. I grew up with Vicki Marx. We went to the same school, rode the same bus to and from school. In fact, she was in my Kindergarten class and it seems like she was always there until we graduated from high school in 1973.

Vicki's home in Flint is just a handful of blocks away from Ground Zero of the beginning of the Flint Water Crisis. Meaning that her tap water was just as contaminated with dangerously high levels of lead just like the house which triggered the crisis when tests showed toxic levels of lead in the tap water of that home.

Vicki also was diagnosed in 2014 with the early onset of Parkinson's disease which is a neurological disorder. Heavy metals, such as lead, have been linked to early onset of Parkinson's.

Since 2014 when the Flint Water Crisis was first reported, several Michigan State officials have been criminally charged in the scandal. A class-action lawsuit has been filed. But, the purpose of this post is not about fault-finding. There is plenty of blame to go around.

The purpose is to point to evidence that the crisis is NOT yet over as Governor Snyder would like the public to believe. In fact, it's my opinion that we do not know just how bad the crisis truly is. There is not enough data and not nearly enough follow up investigation into the water quality in Flint to conclude that the crisis is "nearly over".

Back to Vicki

Sometime in mid-June, Vicki woke up on the floor of her home office. She didn't know how she got there nor how long she had been there. She had somewhat of a headache and had difficulty concentrating. A lot of us would probably shrug an event like this off. Vicki tried but, without a "bright line" to draw between cause and effect and feeling simply "yucky" without a fever or other symptoms, it's hard NOT to be very concerned. She sees a doctor regularly and promised her friends and family to ask about this incident.

In addition to regular visits to the doctor, Vicki also takes advantage of monthly tests for the lead by the Michigan DEQ Lab. Two samples every month just days apart. In early June, the tests showed a lead level of about 95 ppb. (Read Parts per billion). 15 ppb is considered high enough to be "actionable" by the Federal EPA. Ideally, you shouldn't have any lead in your drinking water. Let me repeat: 0 ppb lead in drinking water is what is recommended.

06/06/2017 Lead reading was 95 ppb.

The July tests were a bit more "alarming".

07/05/2017 Lead reading was 3818 ppb
07/12/2017 Lead reading was 4138 ppb
07/11/2017 Lead reading was 7245 ppb.  (All dates refer to the date of collection, NOT the date on which the DEQ lab received them.

Do you see a trend?

The sample taken on July 11 was an all time HIGH of 7245 ppb. That is 1.9 times the sample that was taken just a week earlier which tested 3818 ppb of lead. EPA considers anything above 5000 ppb of lead to be "Hazardous Waste. TOXIC! Skull and crossbones hazardous waste!

....but, there are no warning signals chiming that there's an emergency. Remember what happened in the movie "The China Syndrome" when these was a near nuclear accident? Like that movie, there should be flashing lights with chiming and sirens going off. Maybe a monotone voice repeating over and over, "WARNING: This water is TOXIC. Do not use for any purpose! Do not allow any exposure to eyes, mouth or skin! WARNING! WARNING!"

How would you feel if this was your water test in YOUR household? What would you do?

Vicki did two things.
  1. ) She stopped taking showers in it. Now, she uses captured rainwater for any purpose that may touch her skin. Not only does lead tainted water permeate your skin, the lead will be left behind on any surface that contaminated water touches. In other words, you cannot use it to wash your dishes or launder clothes. It will leave these surfaces covered with lead particles.
  2. She booked an appointment with her Doctor for a blood test. The draw was taken on 7/26/2017. The result showed 38.4 ug/dl. Translation: ANY amount over a value of 10 is considered to be too high. Such a result carries this warning with it: "Lead level is high. Quick action is required. Talk to your doctor or health department about next steps." Imagine yourself in this situation. How would you feel knowing what you know about lead in your body? ...but, the governor and other officials are claiming that the water is "safe" as long as you maintain the filters on your faucets... and you don't drink it.
Vicki is a real person and is caught up in this real and devastating situation. The problem is NOT inside her home. Her pipes are copper. Her water heater has been replaced. Her kitchen and bathroom fixtures have been replaced. And, the Michigan DEQ labs simply process tests and their results. There are no instructions about what to do or where to go for help. They don't care when there are results like this. They just.push paper.

What these test results tell me is that something catastrophic has happened in the water delivery system upstream from Vicki's home. It tells me that the system is eroding even though Flint has switched back to receiving it's drinking water from Detroit. The damage that has been done to Flint's water system continues unabated.

It NEEDS to be fixed NOW without any more delays!

Some pipes have been replaced but, a lot more work needs to be done. Predictions are that the entire City of Flint will have new pipes installed by 2023. 2023? Really? Can someone like Vicki wait that long?

What I can't fathom is why these results, which are so alarming because they are so dangerous, why aren't these being reported to the governor? Why isn't the MDEQ knocking on Vicki's door? Why aren't her neighbors being contacted for additional tests? Why hasn't the Army Corps of Engineers been tapped on the shoulder to lend a hand and speed things along?

I know why. This is a disaster that you just can't see happening so you don't think something is really, REALLY wrong here.

There are no cars being swallowed by flood waters. No helicopters rescuing people from rooftops. There are no flames rushing down a mountainside towards a neighborhood full of homes. No winds that have ripped off rooftops or flattened homes. Nothing that can be shown as a video on the 6 o'clock news.

It's a man-made disaster that is underground, inside peoples basements and walls. It can't be seen or heard.  ....and, it's become "old news". Headlines have given way to new disasters that have much more "drama" than the Flint Water Crisis.

Do you want to see your Congressman or Senator get something done? Here are some tips on how to make get their attention:

DON'T bother with online petitions or emailing. Online contact basically gets ignored. Letters pretty much get thrown in the trash unless you have a particularly strong emotional story.

There are 2 things that activists should be doing all the time. They're by far the most effective ways to shine a light on the problem:
  •  The best way to be heard and get your congressperson to pay attention is to go to town hall meetings.Go to their local offices. If you're in DC, try to find a way to go to an event of theirs. Go to the "mobile offices" that their staff holds periodically ( places and times are located on each congressperson's web site). When you go, ask questions, a lot of them. Push for answers. The louder and more vocal and present you can be at those meetings, the more likely you will receive their attention...
  •  Those in-person events don't happen every day so, the absolute most important thing that people should be doing every day is calling.You should make 6 calls a day: 2 each (DC office and your local office) to your 2 Senators and your 1 Representative. Calls are what all the elected officials pay attention to. Every single day, the Senior Staff and the Senator get a report of the 3 most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices (in DC and local offices), and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics.
  • They're also sorted by zip code and area code.
And this is IMPORTANT:
  • When it's a particular issue that single-issue-voters pay attention to (like gun control, or planned parenthood funding, etc...) they pay closer attention to the subject of your call, in this case, the Flint Water Crisis.
  • When calling the DC office, ask for the Staff member in charge of whatever you're calling about ("Hi, I'd like to speak with the staffer in charge of The Flint Water Crisis or Relief for Flint, etc. please"). Local offices won't always have specific ones, but they might. If you get transferred to that person, awesome. If you don't, that's ok - ask for their name, and then just keep talking to whoever answered the phone. Don't leave a message (unless the office doesn't pick up at all - then you can..).but it's better to talk to the staffer who first answered than leave a message for the specific staffer in charge of your topic.
  • Give them your zip code. They won't always ask for it, but make sure you give it to them so they can mark it down. Extra points if you live in a zip code that traditionally votes for them since they'll want to make sure they get/keep your vote.
  •  If you can make it personal, make it personal. "I voted for you in the last election and I'm worried/happy/whatever" or "as a single mother" or "as a white, middle-class woman," or whatever.
  • Pick 1-2 specific things per day to focus on. Don't go down a whole list - they're figuring out what 1-2 topics to mark you down for on their lists, so, focus on 1-2 per day. Ideally, something that will be voted on/taken up in the next few days, but it doesn't really matter…even if there's not a vote coming up in the next week, call anyway. It's important that they just keep getting calls.
  • Be clear on what you want - "I'm disappointed that the Senator..." or "I want to thank the Senator for their vote on..." or "I want the Senator to know that voting in _____ way is the wrong decision for our state because..." Don't leave any ambiguity.
  • They may get to know your voice/get sick of you - it doesn't matter. The people answering the phones generally turn over every 6 weeks anyway, so even if they're really sick of you, they'll be gone in 6 weeks.
If you hate being on the phone or feel awkward, don't can write a script. After a few days of calling, it starts to feel a lot more natural. Put the 6 numbers in your phone all under Politician, which makes it really easy to click down the list each day!
Now go get 'em!!
Michigan Department of Attorney General
Lansing OfficeG. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 W. Ottawa St.
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, MI 48909
Main Number: 517-373-1110
Facsimile: 517-373-3042

Environmental Coffee House Live Video/Facebook 
Permission to share and cross post is granted and encouraged!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Starting Flyball Training With a New Dog or Puppy

Do you want to start training your dog for flyball but, don't know how to begin? Did you just get a puppy and want to know when to start their flyball education? How would you like to follow the actual progress of a puppy in real time as its owners and flyball club members introduce concepts of flyball to the little one and watch as the puppy progresses through its teachings and training?

In this series of training articles, videos of these actual lessons will be included along with written explanations of what the lesson is intended to accomplish. Questions may be asked in the comments section with more details provided by the author.

The video series is titled "It Takes a Village" acknowledging that flyball training is faster and easier when the trainer/handler is able to enlist the help of others. Flyball is a team sport and the major feature and accomplishment of its participants is a very complicated series of behaviors that is both timed and performed in the environment of other dogs participating as well. The racing rings are normally very noisy and each dog must know its job and ignore a multitude of distractions.

Lesson 1 - Introducing Restrained Recalls

I train flyball by what I call "back-chaining". Flyball is a race which means the Finish Line determines who wins and who loses so, we want to teach our dog to RETURN to us as quickly as they possibly can. To accomplish this, we begin our very first lesson by introducing the "recall". Nearly ALL competitive dog sports include the recall in some fashion. In flyball, a fast recall is essential for all dogs who compete so, I begin training using restrained recalls.

Begin the lesson by having a teammate hold the dog or puppy a short distance away. You should have already determined what kind of reward works with your dog. Most flyball trainers use a tugging toy to reward their dog. This is because a tug is fast and easy to produce and is re-useable over and over again. Food is also used however, it is less desirable as a reward because it must be replenished and some competitors believe that digesting food during athletic activity is not good for a dog's health. My belief is use whatever works for your dog!

With your teammate holding your dog, get your dog's attention by calling his name. This is a very short, quick lesson repeated many times. As SOON as you see your dog look at you, say his name and run in the opposite direction offering the reward (or "motivator") to your dog. The restaining handler should release the dog as soon as they see you moving and the dog has their attention on you. The dog should be trying to chase you and committed to catching you!

The video should illustrate just how close you need to be to start out with and how you should motivate the dog to chase. In the beginning, these should be rapid fire lessons. as training progresses, we add distarctions and distance. Restrained recalls are used to warm up dogs preparing to race and so consider the restarined recall as a basic tool whenever flyball concepts are being introduced or reinforced.

The Video 

The next lesson will show a dead ball retrieve. The puppy featured in these videos is a quick learner so don't be discouraged if you have to break down your dog's training into smaller parts before you put the "chain" back together for a flyball run.

Good Luck and Good Racing!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ballistic's "2012 River Run" Flyball Tournament in Vassar, MI

The "River Run" is a flyball tradition in Region 1. Held every Labor Day weekend for almost 15 years, it is so well known and popular that all you have to say is "Vassar" and everyone knows what tournament you are talking about.   ..and when.

"Flyball Today" has Livestreamed the event at least twice and is experiencing a growth spurt in its audience. As a way to remind and promote this flyball extravaganza, I am happy to embed a promotional video on this blog and I invite and encourage all who read this and those who are already in the audience at home to tune in to Flyball Today September 1 & 2.

Flyball Today Livestream Channel can be accessed at:

Additionally, Flyball Today will update their fans through their Facebook page at:

and through Twitter at

Good Luck and see you on Labor Day at Flyball Today!