Halfway Through a Bowl of Leady Spaghetti: Maybe the first time I’ve used the word midpoint since high school geometry*

I think this is my midpoint? Something like that?

So now that I’ve been with the Lead Head squad for a pretty respectable amount of time, let’s check in to see how I’m doing on my learning goals:

  1. Get first hand experience with the nonprofit sector – Yep, those sure are people I’ve met. Briefly. Occasionally. I spend a lot more time doing *~science~* than I anticipated. This is completely acceptable to me.
  2. Familiarize myself with New Orleans outside of Tulane’s bubble – Well I know where Gentilly is now, that’s more than I could say before. I’ve been dropping off quite a few testing kits in places that the St. Charles streetcar line won’t take you.
  3. Get used to work in an office setting, dressing professionally, etc. – I went to an office party last week and I think that makes me a pro.
  4. Learn how to use ArcGIS – Last time we checked in, I only really knew how to make this software function for tasks that the tutorial book walked me through. Now I’m at least proficient to the point where I can at least use it for things I want to do, like maps of LCR compliance data quality by state or maps of how to keep my blood pressure down (All you have to do is make a choropleth map that organizes census block groups according to how many of your Haters (TM) are there and avoid those areas accordingly.)
  5. Gain on-the-ground experience with socially-minded research – I don’t want to brag but I think the only way I could be more on the ground in the science activism game is if someone kicked me over into the dirt while the IPCC was meeting.

It would be a disservice to only report the things I had anticipated learning before the summer even started, when there are so many other new thought-residents of My-Brain-Town to be shared:

Things I learned that were not part of my learning goals, but are important for any 21st century woman to know:

  • Wyoming is all of us – as the only state in the union that is relaxed enough about states’ rights and secure enough in its own sovereignty to let the US EPA run its drinking water program for it, Wyoming is the ancestral homeland of all Type B Americans.
  • Someone help the Pinevale Pipe Man – Please. I don’t know who he is; all I know is that in the Pineville, LA Water System’s most recent Consumer Confidence Report, the utility reported the LCR sample range as 1-129. That means that someone’s water is running at 129µg/L of lead. The EPA Action Level (aka the “even America’s corrupt environmental regulation system will admit that this isn’t okay” value) is 15µg/L. I bet his kidney is failing right now. Help him.
  • How to estimate faucets – Faucets = people/3. It’s people divided by three. It’s literally someone’s job to count the number of plumbing connections within a water system, but that someone doesn’t do it. They just divide their municipality’s population by three. You cannot make this up.
  • 403 – You’ve seen 404 Not Found, but have you seen THIS?
    • Snapchat-2730804379025199341
  • What New York Looks Like – Ok, so when I was three years old I went to New York City to visit my Aunt Suzanne. That’s what I though at least, until my mother broke it to me about ten years later that I hadn’t gone to New York at all; we had travelled twenty minutes by car to Leawood Kansas, where my Aunt Suzanne actually lived, and I had gotten confused. To this day, in fact, not only have I never been to New York City: I’ve never been within 500 miles of NYC, and have never seen any part of the East Coast with these own two eyes. So when an exercise in my ArcMap GIS tutorial book asked me to label all the boroughs of NYC, the task lay far beyond the grasp of my mental map database. Needless to say, I tried my best, but as Coldplay’s Chris Martin predicted in 2005, I did not succeed. Here’s a picture:
    • Snapchat-1812537591782528574


Okay, readers, I know I joke a lot in these blog posts, but I want to make this non-negotiably clear: I love my job, seriously and unironically. The LSU office is the least stressful work environment I’ve ever been in, and my coworkers and supervisors are all super smart and driven. My mentor has taken so much care to take the strengths, weaknesses, interests and goals of each of her interns into account while guiding us. In addition to the activities I described in my last blog post, I have been working on a new project, something really big and exciting.

This last February, in the aftermath of Flint, the EPA sent a memo to the commissioner of each state’s drinking water agency asking them to enforce a number of steps to protect the public, about half of which have to do with transparency, and including information for both consumers and public water systems on state websites. Because this is a memo and not a law, some states have been better about this than others. So, to get an idea of how quickly states were rolling out the EPA’s transparency requests, I spent weeks going through each state’s public documents, legal guidance pages, and consumer advice and documenting everything I could find. Then, using a National Resource Defense Council paper that includes a ranking of US cities as a guide, I developed an algorithm that would allow me to compress all that qualitative data into a numeric value for each state, with 7 being most in line with EPA recommendations and 1 being the least so. Using my new ArcGIS skills I mapped that data geographically into this (Purple is the best, gray is the worst):

Availability of Lead Information by State

Please note that I have re-visited some of the data since making this map and promoted and demoted several states. An updated version of this graphic will appear in a poster that will be presented at the New Orleans Youth Force summer closing event.

Now that I have all of the data mostly processed, I’m going to analyze it just a bit more and write it up as an academic paper. Dr. Katner thinks I have a shot at submitting it into the Journal of Environmental Justice, which I’m pretty sure is where I will go after I die if I am good.

What a time to be alive. Except it is too hot outside.
*So you know how you’re not supposed to drink water that’s contaminated with lead? You’re also discouraged from cooking with it. I will never forget this after the day I learned that pasta is very good at absorbing lead in the water around it. Immediately after hearing this, a never-ending parade of malicious Rhyme Drones in my head has been repeating the phrase “Leady Spaghetti.” It echoes through my subconscious daily, with no signs of stoppage.

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