Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Throwing Out The Blue Baby With The Chloraminated Bathwater

Baby Blue
"Has anyone else noticed that Harabedian & Capoccia are having staff address all the water issues brought up on The Tattler?" 
- a reader's blog comment late last night

Last night was quite an exercise in message control down at the Slough of Despond. What had been a very serious issue in the relevant Staff Report suddenly became no big deal. A problem so inconsequential and trivial that the City Council hired an only $50,000 consultant to fix it. And, as was carefully pointed out, there were far more expensive options available.

While I cannot imagine that the consultant present at this meeting enjoyed hearing herself being publicly described as "a bargain," she did take the check. Commerce is not always accompanied by grace. And with that what had previously been described as the equivalent of a sucking chest wound was suddenly transformed into little more than a paper cut. Like it had all been done with magic.

Which, if you think about it, really is to the credit of the residents of Sierra Madre. Where else can you find a city government that feels it has to carefully spin an issue like nitrification? In most towns you couldn't find 3 people who would care enough to give a whizzle about something like that. But Sierra Madre? It's a different cat. Public perception can be a problem and there is a reason for official concern here. Much better that you just get people focused back on the colored water issue.

Here is what was said previous to last night's City Council meeting on the issue of nitrification. This was taken from the Staff Report dealing with the issue of nitrification in Sierra Madre's present water supply:


However, at last night's City Council meeting, nitrification was suddenly not a problem. With City Manager Elaine Aguilar going so far as to state that the situation had already been dealt with and there is nothing to worry about right now. Which, of course, is most likely true. At least in a narrow sense. Nitrification is a hot weather problem, and we're not there yet. August being when things can really get out of control.

So why the drastic change of direction? Why does it say in the staff report that nitrification is "a situation requiring immediate action," whereas at last night's City Council meeting it was a problem that has been successfully dealt with?

The answer is public relations. It really is a serious problem, and should the public become focused on it the perception that City Hall has failed the taxpayers, and with potentially devastating results, could become the rule rather than the exception it is at the moment. This is one genii the city would prefer stay in its bottle.

This is also why they had to hire a $50,000 consultant. The colored water problem has been around for quite some time now. Do you think that the City Council suddenly developed a burning sense of urgency over this problem? Really? Ironically, last night was the first time in months that they became seriously focused on it. To the point where it was actually discussed at length.

Has colored water become the officially preferred concern for public attention? Is it now being cynically used as a distraction? Maybe so. After all, there is something far worse out there.

If you go to Google and type in "nitrification + blue baby syndrome" page after page of articles linking these two two terms comes up. Here are six.

Nitrates And Drinking Water (link): "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of nitrate as nitrogen (NO3-N) at 10 mg/L (or 10 parts per million) for the safety of drinking water. Nitrate levels at or above this level have been known to cause a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants under six months of age called methemoglobinemia or "blue-baby" syndrome; in which there is a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. The symptoms of blue-baby syndrome can be subtle and often confused with other illnesses. An infant with mild to moderate blue-baby syndrome may have diarrhea, vomiting, and/or be lethargic. In more serious cases, infants will start to show obvious symptoms of cyanosis: the skin, lips or nailbeds may develop a slate-gray or bluish color and the infant could have trouble breathing. A sample of the infant’s blood can easily confirm a diagnosis of blue-baby syndrome."

Distribution System Nitrification When Using Chloramines (link): "Nitrite/Nitrate are acute health risks to infants up to six months of age - Methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome)" (Mod: This bullet point review also discusses older pipes as being a factor.)

Drinking Water Nitrification Surveillance Program (link): "Nitrite in drinking water poses an acute health concern, causing serious illness and sometimes death in infants less than six months old from methemoglobinemia (blue-baby syndrome). Nitrification can also cause a loss of the disinfectant residual in the water, leading to other bacteriological problems."

Lesson 21: Nitrates and Nitrites (link): "Nitrites also react directly with hemoglobin in human blood and other warm-blooded animals to produce methemoglobin. Methemoglobin destroys the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen. This condition is especially serious in babies under three months of age. It causes a condition known as methemoglobinemia or "blue baby syndrome". Water with nitrite levels exceeding 1.0 mg/L should not be used for feeding babies."

Nitrification (link): "Nitrate can be reduced in gastrointestinal tract of infants into toxic nitrite, which combines with hemoglobin of the blood, causing respiratory distress or the so-called blue baby syndrome."

Nitrogen in the Environment: Nitrification (link): "Once nitrates get into the groundwater, the greatest concerns are for infants less than one year old and for young or pregnant animals. High levels of nitrates can be toxic to newborns, causing anoxia, or internal suffocation. Seek alternative water sources if nitrate levels exceed the health standard of 10 ppm nitrate-N. Do not boil water to eliminate nitrates. It increases nitrate levels rather than decreasing them. The most common symptom of nitrate poisoning in babies is a bluish color to the skin, particularly around the baby's eyes and mouth. These symptoms of nitrate toxicity are commonly referred to as the "blue-baby" syndrome."

Something that I found a little disturbing last night was the claim by the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem that they were unaware of this problem until now. Nitrification is a direct result of the use of chloramines to disinfect drinking water. The SGVMWD, our current source of water, has been using chloramines for years. Certainly they must have run into this problem a few times in the past. Didn't someone there hip Sierra Madre's water staff to the existence of this problem?

I knew nothing about nitrification last week, yet since then I have read dozens of articles about it. Was water staff too busy helping townies at City Hall's front counter to get their reading done? Why is this so big of a surprise for them?

One more thing before I finally move on. Our newly hired consultant on this matter spent some time last night discussing her concerns about pipe corrosion. This following graphic is taken from a presentation called Nitrification : a Year & a Half of Learning (link):


Here is a definition of tuberculation from the Alabama State Water System (link):

microbiological tuberculation -- A condition in older water distribution pipes characterized by reddish brown mounds of various heights attached to the interior of the pipe wall. These mounds are the result of many years of iron and manganese bacterial growth that deposit iron and/or manganese oxides along with particulate matter from the water trapped in the biomass from generations of bacteria. An aging distribution system experiencing this problem is typically characterized by red water, taste and odor problems, turbidity, reduced pressure and flow rates, and a low chlorine residual. Iron bacteria are very common in all water sources with over twenty different iron bacteria that can cause tuberculation. They are generally considered to be non-pathogenic. Tuberculation usually begins with a slime that may show signs of iron oxide precipitation. The iron bacteria, which attach themselves to the interior surface of the pipe, metabolize ferrous ions from the water as an energy source, precipitating ferrous oxide which becomes trapped in the biomass of the tuberculation. In the past, tuberculation usually resulted in replacement of the water distribution pipe; however, more recently, chemical treatments of isolated sections of pipeline have proven both highly effective and less costly.

Old pipes, chloramines, and the approaching hot summer months. Anything we're missing here?

It has been a bad couple of months for the City Manager

During last night's discussion on City Hall's inconvenient (for you) hours, Councilmember Delmar pointed out that it is hardly the time city employees have to spend at the front counter dealing with residents and their concerns that is the only cause of productivity problems there.

I am not sure that Elaine Aguilar was happy to hear that observation. For someone who enjoys control as much as she does, the prospect of the City Council reorganizing the way City Hall does its business cannot be an exciting one for her.

It also raised a question for me that I didn't hear answered. What exactly is it city staff does with its mornings that is more important than handling the needs of the taxpaying citizens who come to City Hall to take care of their business?

Serving donuts to developers at private meetings perhaps?

Elaine certainly must be missing Nancy and Josh right about now.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

67 comments:

  1. I thinks some heads need to roll over this water issue. However, before that ever happens, "staff" always gets to have a consultant brought in at taxpayer expense. They never take responsibility and they are never held accountable for their action. Elaine and Bruce ought to be fired for malfeasance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dont expect staff to understand the water contamination, but I do not expect a "consultant" who is just going to consult

      we need a fixer not a consultant

      I know the real world business uses consultants, but SM uses them for everything and the most obvious things also like the times we bring in consultants for retail development or downtown studies

      Bruce seems pretty lazy or really doesn't give a damn

      Delete
    2. Bruce doesn't have the brain power to deal with these issues.

      Delete
  2. Why does it always take the Tattler to bring the issue to the forefront about how bad this water situation is. Fish die and babies can get blue baby syndrome and nobody in our city government is getting ahead of the problem. They ony react. I would normally recommend that anyone who suffers any damages or illness from this horrible water sue the city. The problem is that we would then be suing ourselves. Maybe we need a petition to circulate to fire Bruce Inman and Elaine. We need a change at City Hall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elaine and Bruce can never be wrong. It is like Papal Infallibility. All hell can break lose and what becomes the most important consideration is that people believe it was not their fault.

      Delete
    2. Very true, 6:35!


      Delete
    3. hey now, Susan Henderson over at the MtnViewNews has been all over this issue for several months and has covered it extensively with front page articles and indepth analysis with facts and research

      Delete
    4. She is a genius.

      Delete
    5. The in-depth analysis of the MVN is breathtaking.

      Delete
    6. and we need to get rid of or change the position of Director of Development

      Delete
    7. I know many people that would sign it.

      Delete
  3. It is starting to look like Harabedian is yet another mayor whose administration will go down in flames over covering the butts of Elaine and Bruce.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's just a good pal to one and all.

      Delete
    2. Can I be in a political mailer with the mayor? I promise to wear "black casual" just like the POA reps did.

      Delete
  4. Where were all the people that were going to the meeting I can count on one hand the number of people that were there .
    That were not staff or for other issues

    ReplyDelete
  5. For all of you who voted for Denise Delmar - thank you! My thoughts, exactly, Moderator, when she was asking about what it is that staff actually does between 7:30 and 11:00 - I'll bet Elaine is sorry Denise got elected. She asked all the hard questions last night. Rachel was good, but what is Goss thinking? Who can tell? The building moratorium is on the agenda in two weeks - June 24. If you care what happens to our town and our water, you must attend! Please don't let the same three people who spoke last night (and often do) be the only three who appear to care. We need to fill chambers, even if you don't speak. Spread the word.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gene Goss takes both sides of every issue. But when it comes time to vote, he will do what Elaine wants.

      Delete
    2. I agree that he takes both sides - but so far, he's not following the city staff line all the time.

      Delete
    3. if Goss teaches the way he speaks and acts on the Council his classes must be a favorite with the athletic department at Long Beach City College

      its one of those "don't show up" situations

      don't forget, he's a buddy of John Buchanan so don't trust him to honor his committment to the people

      Delete
    4. Goss' neighbor is Janice Nelson, she asked him to run. Didn't Gene's parents ever tell him the part about people seeing who you associate with?

      Delete
  6. Is the City taking the responsibility to announce to the public the hazards of drinking the water when doing business within Sierra Madre?Like placing an elderly loved one within the newly built retirement facility,eating at the restaurants and doing any business within the City. Full disclosure to new Buyers may not be convenient but it would be the ethical thing to do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points!
      The Kensington has to get a brochure out, the restaurants have to have some inclusion in their menus.

      Delete
  7. We can now label all water delivery sites (spigots inside and out) as "Do not drink if pregnant--high concentrations of nitrates harmful to the developing fetus! Do not allow children under the age of x? to drink--high concentrations of nitrates harmful to children's developing brains! "

    ReplyDelete
  8. Not only does the City of Sierra Madre business hours differ wildly from those of neighboring cities (my, my, how do they get their work done with the doors open to the public at 8 a.m.?) but the staff, when you do get to cross the threshold at 11 a.m., are cloistered. There is a palpable fear present in their demeanor. This can only be due to the incompetence of their boss, Elaine. She reminds me exactly of many of my superiors who were incompetent and they kept a tight reign on themselves and their staff least they be found out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no culture of customer service at our city hall. There is a culture of victimhood and, with some clear and welcome exceptions, sloth.

      Delete
    2. there is plenty of customer service as long as you are a developer

      residents, wait in the long line between the hours of 1:32 - 1:41 pm Monday

      Delete
    3. Loved it when Denise said some cities have different hours than Sierra Madre,....they open earlier.

      Delete
  9. Nitrates in mom's drinking water linked to birth defects in kids.
    www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/.../nitrate-in-moms-drinking-wat...
    Jun 27, 2013 - Babies whose mothers consume nitrates in drinking water have a higher ... mothers' consumption of nitrates-tainted drinking water during pregnancy. ... mothers to ingest 5 mg or more of nitrate per day from drinking water," ...

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is scary stuff.Thanks to the Tattler disclosures some tragedies may be avoided!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bravo for Denise. it's about time someone told the emperor that they had no clothes. Elaine has been interviewing, but no other city wants her.... why do we?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you know for a fact that our City Mgr. is looking elsewhere?

      Delete
    2. That would be such good news.

      Delete
  12. Come to enjoy the ambiance of our small town community but don't go near the water!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Did anyone else catch that Inman said when the MWD turned on their water, Inman was given information re: monitoring for Nitrification? Why do you suppose they have been testing all these months? As Delmar said last night, action should have been taken 3 or 4 months ago, not wait until there might be a problem. Well, it's done now, so perhaps we can now hope that a solution is on the way. Don't expect it to be free, however. I predict in Sept. or Oct. the consultant will come back with a recommendation to install a very expensive system to purify our water.

    ReplyDelete
  14. are pictures of the yellow water included in the real estate ads?

    I'd love to hear realtors explain the water to prospective buyers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cold Blue TurnoversJune 11, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Well this "Sierra Madre's Corrosion Spring Water" should create a high turn over rate at the ALF.

      Delete
    2. I would imagine the Kensington will filter all the drinking water. Maybe Sierra Madre residents will be able to get drinking water there?

      Delete
    3. Day access to the water suite starts at $3,500 a month.

      Delete
    4. Free bottle of filtered water for each sales presentation.

      Delete
  15. I'm not sure where you've all been for the last 40 years but nitrites in Sierra Madre water has been a concern for a long time. The only difference now is that the water is yellow and smells and there is a possibility that the nitrite level could become a danger if not dealt with. The sky is not falling! (yet)

    Look at your water reports for the last several years....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, but the addition of chloramines and the effect that is having on our rotten old pipes has kicked this all up into a far higher gear.

      Delete
    2. Slackers don't their axes kicked into shape

      Delete
    3. It's not the same water, or are you just a dirty spinner?

      Delete
  16. My guess is the city is jockeying for a new water bond sale to replace a lot of the older pipes. With chloramines a part of our lives for as long as we're living them, new pipes will have to be put in to prevent the nitrification of our water. Corroded pipes contribute to this, and added with the disinfectant chloramine we might as well start calling our water company a nitrite still.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We need to be sure any planned future developments pay a greater if not all the cost of replacing pipes.

      Delete
  17. All those old boys who sucked all of that money out of our water company back when rather than reinvesting it in infrastructure like honest people would, well, your chickens have now come home to roost. Congratulations. The damage you have done is still having a profound effect on us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yeah, but the problem is we keep electing the same old same old and those supported by the very ones that screwed us over smiling all the time

      Harabedian was supported by the same group

      Delete
  18. Bruce is an idiot...he does as little as possible to help this city. It's all about him and him alone when I've dealt with him and you really have to push his buttons to get anything done...and I don't mind pushing them at all. When it comes to city council, they are basically incapable of making their own decisions, such as the current mayor being the greatest example. He is low brow at best, pretending to be someone he's not. If he is really interested in becoming politically affluent and/or going to climb the rungs to a higher position somewhere else, he needs to grow some serious cajones. Seems like the jovial guy who laughs at everybody's jokes at the parties...though most aren't funny. This makes him the guy you usually avoid at those said parties..."there he is, shhh, don't look his way or he'll see us". It's too bad...hoping Denise keeps it comin' so people can wake up to the sleepy and cowardly group that it is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed, it seems as though Bruce is much more reactive than proactive in his style. I looked up his pay on transparent California and he's at $98k base, $153k with benefits. We, the taxpayer, really need to demand better performance from all city workers, as their track record is much less than stellar. I'd like to investigate a petition to recall a few of these city employees, as another suggested.

      Delete
  19. Elaine and Bruce need to be fired.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember when Aguilar was hired. Word had it that she was the best of a very bad bunch.That said, I think the need for jobs and the increasing difficulty of getting these plush government positions, would produce a much better field of candidates.

      Delete
    2. I know this is supposed to be a taboo topic, but it would be nice to have a city manager who actually lives here. I think that would make the person in that job less likely to side with outside development money.

      Delete
    3. I know I've heard another person say this and it makes sense. We need to stop hiring city managers that are young or pursuing a career in city government, they keep using us and the city resources that benefit themselves with bigger city experience.

      It makes sense for the city to do an exploratory search for a city manager who is at the end of his or her career OR one that will do what the city needs and really understand that there are plenty of replacements in the job market.

      Delete
    4. Can't specify age when hiring, that is discrimination.

      Delete
    5. Well, 3:24 Elaine doesn't exactly fit the young mode!

      Delete
  20. The way our water has been handled is very sad and unprofessional. If the water Department was being run appropriately the money coming in over all these years would have been put into infrastructure and we would never have been put into this situation. We would have worked the wells and never have run out of water in the first place. YES, SM has made some bad choices and the question now is how do we fix it. We can advertise for replacements and see what happens. Those to be replaced can be put on notice and have a chance to find other employment in the interim.

    ReplyDelete
  21. the messenger delivered the residents the water news several years ago... a) city hall commingling of funds b) we blew the whistle that city hall lied about having a Corporate Tax Id Number for the water and sewer enterprise c) that city hall lied about the number of broken water pipes d) the messenger filed (4) written complaints against the city for charging for more water than the city pumped d) now the city raises the water rates by 160% and the city is getting the water for "Free from MWD", does that make you feel stupid?

    The messanger


    remember all those city council meetings which the city residents failed to attend...

    the city residents through the messenger under the bus...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What makes you think the water from MWD is free?

      Delete
    2. Someone needs grammar lessons...just sayin'

      Delete
  22. Another of the last council's decisions fall by the way side. Go Ladies.

    ReplyDelete
  23. The city is finally dealing with the discolored water. Once people's water is clear, they will forget about the poison in it that they can't see.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Am I right in thinking were being a little to hard on management? City employees deal with what comes to the door so to speak. Employees just need to have the right training to deal with items that affect the residents. We need positive training and results that are in line with the law and what the residents expect and vote for. Transparency and integrity are a good start.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. If a baseball team starts playing badly, starts to drop in the standings, loses easy games that should be own, they never fire the players. The manager is the one that gets let go,,sometimes along with the general manager. Bad management causes a team to lose. In our case, the way this whole water issue has been handled, has been pathetically inept. Its time to fire the management. We need new leaders at City Hall. The staff is following the lead of their managers... Elaine and Bruce are lucky to have held their jobs this long. They need to go. And as soon as the contract is up,the law firm needs to be replaced. We need transparency from city hall, not excuses and a constantly moving puck. Not harsh at all, considering what they've done to, and for, the tax paying citizens of Sierra Madre.

      Delete
  25. IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE TAP WATER FROM THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am now paying for bottle water for my dog.. If I cant drink the water, how can I let him drink the water I Now pay the highest water bill in the state of California. Welcome to the life of living in Sierra Madre.

      How can anyone EVER support our current City Manager or Director of Public Works "Water" Dept..

      Delete
  26. Chrystine Warden DimitryJune 19, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    Why is it, exactly, that Sierra Madre shut down their wells and decided to buy icky water instead? Just askin' ..

    ReplyDelete