Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

Session Schedule & Abstracts

* Disclaimer: All presentations represent the views of the authors, and not the organizations that support their research. Please apply the standard disclaimer that any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in abstracts, posters, and presentations at the meeting are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organization or agency. Meeting attendees and authors should be aware that this disclaimer is intended to apply to all abstracts contained in this document. Authors who wish to emphasize this disclaimer should do so in their presentation or poster. In an effort to make the abstracts as concise as possible and easy for meeting participants to read, the abstracts have been formatted such that they exclude references to papers, affiliations, and/or funding sources. Authors who wish to provide attendees with this information should do so in their presentation or poster.

Common abbreviations

Symposium: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Multiple Risks and Lessons Learned from Flint, Michigan

Room: Salon FG   1:30 pm–3:00 pm

Chair(s): Jade Mitchell

Sponsored by Engineering and Infrastructure Specialty Group

The decision to switch the source of the City of Flint’s drinking water from the Detroit Water and Sewer System to the Flint River, which has high organic matter content led to well publicized catastrophic consequences. Acceptance of unknown risks related to this decision are just starting to become well understood as are the implications for the management of water and health. In response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan many researchers and institutions have been involved in collecting data on harms; providing interventions for reducing harms; and evaluating future preventive strategies which are relevant to many communities across the nation. Studies have evaluated the human health risks posed by chemicals and microbes in the contaminated drinking water; infrastructure risks and water system resilience; and the institutional infrastructure failures which lead to the crisis. Additionally, there are many lessons learned from the response on trust, risk communication and widely held assumptions in drinking water legislation. This symposium provides insight for the risks community from the perspectives of key scientists and engineers involved in the Flint crisis. It consists of several talks which will cohesively address multiple risks involved in the crisis and provides a set of signs and symptoms which can be used to qualitatively determine vulnerability in aging infrastructure systems.

T3-F.1  1:30 pm  Lessons Learned from Flint about the Operation and Resilience of Water Treatment Infrastructure. Masten SJ*, McElmurry S, Davies SH; Michigan State University, Wayne State University

Abstract: The elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water of residences in Flint, MI that began in 2014 have had a profound effect on the level of trust within the community and the State, the economy of the region, and the health and well-being of the residents of Flint and the surrounding communities. The chemistry and engineering behind what happened to Flint’s water, why the distributed water was so corrosive, and the extent to which the system appears to be recovering have been investigated. This analysis is based on an extensive review of the Monthly Operating Reports (MORs) and other reported documents from the water treatment facilities, and through personal communication with plant operators and managers. In this talk we will explore the complexities of water treatment and distribution systems, the importance of water chemistry on water treatment, and the ethics of proper water treatment operations

T3-F.2  1:50 pm  Links between physical and chemical water quality, reported incidence of Legionnaires’ disease, and waterborne Legionella pneumophila in Flint, Michigan. Garner E*, Rhoads WJ, Edwards MA, Pruden A; Virginia Tech, 418 Durham Hall, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, United States

Abstract: When the city of Flint, Michigan began using the Flint River as a drinking water source without properly implementing federally mandated corrosion control in April 2014, a prolonged period of drinking water quality problems were triggered, including red water and elevated disinfection by-products, coliform bacteria, lead, and Legionella. After the problem was exposed, the city switched back to Detroit Water and Sewer Department drinking water, with enhanced orthophosphate corrosion control, in October 2015. In January 2016, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Genesee County Health Department announced an unprecedented Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak had also occurred while Flint River water was used. In total, 91 cases of legionellosis and 12 deaths were attributed to the outbreak. A lack of clinical isolates has, to date, hindered direct epidemiologic linkage to the Flint River water source. Here we present several lines of evidence linking the treated Flint River water usage to the outbreak. Flint River water was more conducive to Legionella growth, as evidenced by historic monthly water quality reports, our own sampling of homes and businesses in Flint, and bench-scale experiments replicating key aspects of the Flint River water chemistry. Together, these data demonstrate that the corrosive Flint River water generally deteriorated water quality by leaching elevated iron nutrients from water pipes, dissipating disinfectant residuals, and increasing water temperatures within the growth range of Legionella. Together, these factors likely triggered growth of Legionella in Flint’s drinking water system. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is currently underway to characterize L. pneumophila isolates from Flint tap water and to compare to clinical isolates responsible for past waterborne Legionella outbreaks. WGS will provide insight in to the potential virulence, pathogenicity, and speciation of L. pneumophila isolates obtained from Flint drinking water.

T3-F.3  2:10 pm  Institutional Failure as a Risk Factor. Beecher JA*; Michigan State University

Abstract: Political and policy institutions play a vital role environmental and public health protection, but the Flint water crisis revealed their fallibility and precarity. Water and sanitation services are essential and water is the only utility product that is physically ingested. In their everyday lives, people should be able to take the quality of their water for granted, at least in terms of meeting minimal standards as defined by federal law. They should also be able to take for granted that the institutions for ensuring water safety and quality of are functional and committed to compliance. While there is no established human right to drinking water in the U.S., there is a legal right to water that is compliant with all applicable federal and state regulations. Although the crisis is frequently cast as a failure of infrastructure or a failure of local governance, it is primarily a manifestation of institutional failure and a demonstration of serial and catastrophic regulatory failure. In many respects, all infrastructure failure or risk thereof reflects institutional failure. While the people of Flint may not have been deliberately harmed, they were placed at risk and serious questions remain about risk awareness in key decision processes. The direct technical causes and devastating human consequences of the crisis are well documented. In its wake, public trust was broken and the ramifications for society, governance, and justice beyond Flint are profound. Rebuilding trust will be arduous and success is unlikely unless institutional failure is recognized as a risk factor and effort is devoted to reestablishing institutional integrity, capacity, and efficacy. This paper will explore substantial risk imposed by key dimensions of institutional failure.

T3-F.4  2:30 pm  Discussion of Lessons Learned from Flint about Risk Assumptions in the Lead and Copper Rule. Feighner B, Mitchell JB*; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan State University

Abstract: The Flint Water Crisis brought national attention to the risks associated with aging infrastructure and inadequate drinking water treatment. The progression of events that resulted in high lead levels at customer taps will be examined. The numerous chemical and physical factors, many of which are not well-known, will be discussed. The extraordinary response efforts and large numbers of tap samples for lead analysis in Flint provide important data that challenges certain risk assumptions in the Safe Drinking Water Act under the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), specifically with respect to prioritized sampling locations and effective corrosion control treatment. These assumptions will be discussed along with proposed changes for the LCR.

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