Fixing It Right

No easy solutions available for
contaminated water supply in Flint, MI

Flint, MI, resident Hattie Collins has just one question that’s likely on the minds of her neighbors and the other citizens who have been using donated bottled water for the past few months for everything from cooking to bathing:

"When are you gonna fix it?" Collins asked. "And I mean fix it right."1

For authorities charged with solving Flint’s water crisis, the biggest challenge might be addressing Collins’ last statement: Fixing it right.

As a cost-cutting measure to address the Flint’s financial troubles, city officials switched the city’s water supply from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in April 2014. The river—a known dumping ground for cars—contained water so corrosive it stripped lead off the older pipes used in the city’s drinking-water system. In October 2015, a public state of emergency was declared.2

Studies have shown high levels of lead in a bloodstream can cause behavioral disorders, lower a person’s IQ and be especially dangerous to children under the age of six. Legislation in the 1990s, such the Clean Water Drinking Act, was introduced to encourage cities to replace lead pipes and use antileaching agents to reduce lead levels.3, 4

In Flint, what the federal law required for corrosion control measures wasn’t uniformly understood or agreed on by city and state officials. This caused delays in attempted fixes for the contamination.5

Simply determining the full scope of the city’s water crisis has proven to be a difficult undertaking. For example, after Marty Kaufman, a professor of earth and resource science at the University of Michigan-Flint, was contracted by the city and set out to learn which homes have lead piping, he immediately hit a roadblock in the city’s records.

Kaufman was shown a file drawer containing 45,000 hand-written index cards that indicated which of Flint’s pipes were lead. He also was given 240 parcel maps from the 1980s that divided city properties into squares with codes that indicated the type of service lines running into the houses. He and his team carefully scanned these maps into a computer and created one digital map, but there’s no guarantee the scanned information is entirely accurate.6

"Ultimately, any time you make a map," Kaufman said, "you have to field-check your information."7

Fixes for today and tomorrow

City engineers must decide on an immediate fix for the water supply’s lead levels and what must be implemented as a permanent solution. Researchers from Virginia Tech estimated the Flint River aged Flint’s pipes by more than 11 years in just 18 months.8

After the city went back to using Detroit’s water system in October 2015, water flowing in the pipes was chemically treated and included phosphates, which will help form a layer of scale inside the pipes. Keeping a protective layer of scale intact is what prevents further pipe corrosion. That’s why some engineers worry that attempts to fix the pipes could disrupt those newly formed layers and resume the lead contamination.9

Replacing the pipes is considered the only complete solution, and a class action lawsuit filed in January demanded that Michigan "replace all lead service lines in the water system at no cost to the customer of the water system." State officials estimated the cost of such a project to be $60 million while city officials estimated it to be as high as $1.5 billion. The project would involve overhauling large amounts of infrastructure, such as replacing service lines or installing new liners in pipes.10

Liners would be about half the cost of new pipes, but they can’t be applied in all situations. Fred Tingberg Jr., business development manager of Lanzo Lining Services, said, "Six inches and up [pipe width] is the common application range for installing pipe liners. There’s some four-inch technology that’s come to the fore. But when you’re talking that size, there’s still a cost issue and [water flow] capacity issue."11

Tinberg also explained that it’s not possible for liners to go up a street and into a home through lines that are 0.75 inch wide. Another type of liner, called "bag liners," which are usually installed inside pipes, cannot seal joints or intersections, and the tools that unfurl this type of liner can’t pass through pipes with diameters less than six inches.

Flow of funds

Then, there’s the matter of money. Flint did receive $80 million in federal aid, but Michigan’s Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said, "[The federal aid] is the ability for [Flint] to borrow money. And from what we can tell, it looks like $17 million is about as much as [the state] would be allowed to send to Flint."12

Flint’s funding needs were further complicated after the city’s mayor received 21,000 signatures from the not-for-profit group Food and Water Watch requesting a moratorium on drinking water bills—something that could cost the city millions and prevent it from repairing or replacing pipes and other infrastructure.13

While the city weighs its options, community members are pulling together to help their town. Volunteer plumbers, for example, have been helping to install donated faucets, filters and test kits in Flint homes. Sometimes as many as 300 plumbers have volunteered on weekends and visited more than 1,000 homes in a day.14

The harm to Flint’s citizens and estimated high cost of fixes highlight a problem that could happen in many U.S. towns that rest on toxic infrastructures. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder emphasized this point in his January State of the State address: "We need to invest more in smarter infrastructure so we avoid crises like this in the future."15

—compiled by assistant editor Tyler Gaskill


  1. Ari Shapiro, "Flint Begins the Long Process of Fixing Its Water Problem," NPR.org, Feb. 1, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/fixingitswater.
  2. "Flint Residents Get Bottled Water, Filters for Lead," CBSnews.com, Oct. 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/cbsnewsflintlead.
  3. Jeremy C.F. Lin and Haeyoun Park, "High Lead Levels Were Detected in Nearly 400 Flint Homes, and There May Be More," New York Times, Feb. 6, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/nytflint400homes.
  4. Chris Sellers, "Piping as Poison: The Flint Water Crisis and America’s Toxic Infrastructure," Theconversation.com, http://tinyurl.com/toxicinfrastructure.
  5. Abby Goodnough, Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, "When the Water Turned Brown," New York
    , Jan. 23, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/nytwaterturnedbrown.
  6. Shapiro, "Flint Begins the Long Process of Fixing Its Water Problem," see reference 1.
  7. Ibid.
  8. John Wisley, Kathleen Gray and Ann Zaniewski, "Flint’s Damaged Pipes Spark Debate on Fix,"
    Detroit Free Press, Jan. 30, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/pipessparkdebate.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Chad Halcom and Lindsay Vanhulle, "Big Costs, Technical Fixes in the Offing as Flint Weighs Next Steps," Crain’s Detroit Business, Jan. 24, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/flintbigcosts.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Steve Inskeep, "Flint Needs Long-Term Solutions to Unsafe Water, State Official Says," NPR.org, Jan. 28, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/longtermsolution.
  13. Steve Carmody, "Unpaid Water Bills in Flint Could Hinder Repairs," NPR.org, Feb. 4, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/unpaidwaterbill.
  14. Tracy Samilton, "Plumbers Converge on Flint to Help Get Lead Out of Its Drinking Water," NPR.org, Feb. 4, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/plumbershelp.
  15. Halcom, "Flint’s Damaged Pipes Spark Debate on Fix," see reference 10.


Statistician Ranked One of
Fastest-Growing Jobs

Statistician is projected to be one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Employment of statisticians will grow 34% from 2014 to 2024, compared to 28% for mathematical science jobs and 7% for all occupations, according to the bureau.

Statistician ranks ninth on the Department of Labor’s list of 20 fastest-growing occupations. The field is one of only four nonhealthcare science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs to appear on the list.

The strong demand for people who can work with and analyze data also has led to increased wages for statisticians. Mean annual wages for the position grew 12% between 2000 and 2014 in inflation adjusted dollars, according to BLS data. For a majority of other workers during this period, which includes the Great Recession, wages remained flat or dropped.

"We often hear that wages are declining or remaining flat for many workers in the United States, but that’s not the case for statisticians. People with degrees in statistics are highly sought after for their ability to analyze and interpret data and to understand risk and uncertainty," said Jessica Utts, president of the American Statistical Association.

Visit www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm to see the complete list of the fastest-growing jobs.

Short Runs

SATISFACTION WITH services provided by the U.S. federal government declined for the third straight year, but the pace of the decline has slowed substantially. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for federal government services was down 0.8% to an ACSI score of 63.9 on a 0 to 100 scale. For more specifics on the ratings, visit http://tinyurl.com/customer-sat-fed.

A NEW PUBLIC awareness campaign, "Safe Cars Save Lives," urges consumers to check for open recalls at least twice a year and to get vehicles affected by recalls fixed as soon as parts are available. Last year, there were nearly 900 recalls affecting 51 million vehicles nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency unveiled the campaign earlier this year. For more about the initiative, visit http://tinyurl.com/safe-cars-campaign.


Report Says Many Organizations
Lack Resilience Practices

Despite overwhelming agreement that resilience is a priority for their organizations and indispensable for long-term growth, less than one-third of global business leaders surveyed last year by the by the British Standards Institution (BSI) said they believed their firms have fully embedded resilience practices.

Less than half of those same business leaders said they expect their firms to have fully embedded resilience practices within three years.

Achieving the resilience to survive and prosper in the long-term is held back by a lack of skills and knowledge, insufficient leadership commitment and short-term financial considerations, according to the report titled "Organizational Resilience: Building an Enduring Enterprise."

The report, citing British Standard 65000—Guidance for Organizational Resilience, defines organizational resilience as "the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper."

The report identifies six key features of resilient organizations:

  1. A proactive approach—a willingness to adapt before being forced to.
  2. Dynamic leadership—support from the top of an organization (from the CEO down) to embed a process.
  3. esponsiveness to change—a willingness to listen to market needs.
  4. A strong corporate culture—holistic inclusion and recognition of everyone’s responsibility and contribution to the business.
  5. Keeping focused—possessing a clear vision, purpose and identity.
  6. A long-term view—not responding solely to short-term financial goals.

"The apparent gap between the intention and action in companies’ approach toward resilience suggests that businesses are facing a host of challenges in embedding resilience in a changing and volatile marketplace," said Victoria Tuomisto of BSI’s economist intelligence unit and the report’s editor.

"These, in turn, will be different for every company," Tuomisto said, "But a resilient organization by definition is one that is constantly shifting and adapting. There is no ‘finish line’ when it comes to implementing a culture of resilience."

To download a copy of the report, visit http://tinyurl.com/study-org-resilience.

ASQ News

STATISTICS SCHOLARSHIP OPENS Applications for the 2016-2017 Ellis R. Ott Scholarship are available through ASQ’s Statistics Division. The $7,500 scholarships are for students in master’s degree or higher programs with concentrations in applied statistics or quality management. The 2015-2016 scholarship recipients were: Carrie Butts-Wilmsmeyer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Isabel Litton of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. For more information and an application form, visit http://tinyurl.com/asq-ott-scholarship. Applications are due April 1.

CONFERENCE PRICE BREAK Early-bird pricing for this year’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement expires later this month. Both ASQ members and nonmembers can receive $100 off admission if they register before March 25. Visit asq.org/wcqi for more details on the event, which is scheduled for May 16-18 in Milwaukee.

NEW ENTERPRISE MEMBERS Four more organizations have become ASQ enterprise members. Altria, Crayola, Textron and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories join 54 other organizations at this membership level. Visit http://tinyurl.com/asq-ent-members for the complete list of enterprise members and more information about enterprise membership.

EDITOR NAMED Murat Caner Testik has been named editor of Quality Engineering, a quarterly journal co-published by ASQ and Taylor & Francis. Testik is currently completing his tenure as the associate dean of engineering at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey. He succeeds Peter Parker of NASA, who served as the journal’s editor for three years.

ADDED DUTIES The ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) is now managing the ANSI/MSE 50021 Superior Energy Performance (SEP) verification body accreditation program. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and ANAB have decided the SEP accreditation program will benefit from consolidated management under one accreditation body. For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/anab-mse.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Katie Berman.


EDUCATION: Master’s degrees in counseling and marriage and family therapy from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

CURRENT JOB: Vice president of managed and implementation services at Curriculum Advantage, which is headquartered in Atlanta. There, she’s responsible for the strategy and delivery of learning solutions to external and internal stakeholders, and oversees all project implementations for clients.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Standardizing a training program for Curriculum Advantage, and participation in ASQ’s Emerging Quality Leaders program (EQLP). She also completed an online course on process improvement.

PREVIOUS JOB: Taught high school English and provided counseling to children and families.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: In addition to the EQLP, she wants to become more active in ASQ’s Human Development and Leadership Division.

PUBLISHED WORKS: Berman refereed a book chapter about addressing infidelity in couple therapy. She also refereed an article on the relevance of the connection among acculturation, family dynamics and health in Latino families for family counseling research and practices.

RECENT HONORS: Last year, Berman was awarded the first Paul Borawski Scholarship for the EQLP.

PERSONAL: Berman and her husband, Adam, have a son, David.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Reading, traveling, cooking and drinking wine.

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