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February 2016

Flint Water - Musings Of A Former Public Works Director

Guest Author, Michael S. Ellegood, PE, is registered in New Jersey, Arizona and California. He has held positions ranging from Project Engineer through Senior Executive in majoring consulting engineering firms. He joined the public sector as an agency head ultimately retiring as County Engineer, Public Works Director and Transportation Director for Maricopa County Arizona. He is a senior consultant with PSMJ Resources and collaborates with public works agencies across North America to improve their project delivery.

By now, all America is aware of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The City, under management by a State appointed official, changed the water supply from Detroit to the Flint River. The change in the water source caused lead and iron oxides to leach from delivery pipes and create a health hazard for thousands of Flint residents. A man made disaster!

Since Flint is largely African-American, the situation has racial overtones. Since Flint is Democratic while under the management of a Republican Governors' Administration, the situation has political overtones.

So the investigations began.

  • The Republican controlled US Congress accuses the US EPA of ignoring the problem and letting it become a crisis.
  • Democratic Presidential candidates tour the City and promise help (if elected).
  • The lawyers are lined up lawsuits in hand.
  • The State Republican administration vows to fix the problem if it just didn't cost $1.5 billion to replace the pipes.

It seems that everyone is heard from except us engineers.

  • Was a competent civil engineer even consulted before the water source was switched?
  • What recommendations did he/she make?
  • Was the advice followed? Or as too often happens, not sought or ignored?

Any competent Civil Engineer knows that when a water source is changed, water chemistry changes as well. Mineral deposits in an old delivery system precipitate out, enter the water and can have significant affect on water clarity, turbidity taste, appearance and , in this case, potability.

During my years as a County Engineer and Public Works Director, I have had to put a stop to some "good ideas" before a non-professional directed their execution. Some of these "ideas" had powerful political interests behind them. They all required me to expend political capital. But I did it knowing the political risk to my career but unwilling to take a chance on the public safety that I am sworn to uphold.

So, where were the engineering professionals in Flint? Why have we not heard from them?

Perhaps, because over the years, we engineers have been relegated to a status of technician instead of respected professional, a team member in forming pubic policy. Perhaps, we have brought this on ourselves by remaining behind the scenes; by not engaging in public policy discussion. Perhaps we need to be more visible,more outspoken, and more engaged in public process.

As a pubic works director I felt it necessary to elbow myself into visibility. I spoke publicly every chance I got. I did not fear the press, instead I engaged with the news media (actually co-opting them); I personally conducted public meetings especially on controversial projects. I worked with all of the elected officials I could regardless of party affiliation or level of government. I respected them and earned their respect.

We as Professional Engineers have worked hard to earn the professional suffix "PE". Now let's use it to help shape public policy.

In semi-retirement, Michael is also a frequent blogger, writer and editorializer, proudly signing his name: Michael S. Ellegood, PE. wants to ensure you too can proudly sign your name with your professional credentials abbreviations following. We do so by providing you with the foremost recognized and trusted credentials management solution in the A/E industry. Visit to learn how we can help you with professional credentials management services.

Celebrating Discover Engineers Week 2016

We salute you for upholding public safety, your sworn oath.

Facts, Fun, Quizzes and Quotes

January 2016 "The Credential" MathCounts®
quiz answer.

What is
the sum of the first 2016 integers?

Certainly we don't have time to add all of these numbers to determine the sum. If we were to list all 2016 integers,it would look like this: 1,2,3,4, ..., 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. Notice that the 1st and 2016th terms have a sum of 2017, as do the 2nd and 2015th, and so on. That means there are 2016/2 = 1008 sums of 2017. Therefore, the sum of the first 2016 positive integers is 1008 x 2017 = 2,033,136.


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