I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

Act 3 Scene II.

This is a story about a Roman. His name was Herman. His name was Roman Herman. The fad of the era was berries. People collected berries. They were a status symbol. One day, while Roman Herman was roaming the outskirts of Rome, he spied a berry. It was the most beautiful berry he had ever seen. He took the berry and brought it to his wife, who loved berries. She saw the berry. She praised it. She said “That’s an awful nice berry you got there Herman!” Pretty soon, word got around about the berry. People came from all over Rome to see the berry, and to praise it. One night, there was a menacing knock on the door. It was late. Herman opened it. He said “Who are you?” They said “We’ve come for your berry.” He says “It’s not my berry, it’s my wife’s berry. Have you come to praise her berry?” They say, “No, we’ve come to seize her berry, not to praise it.”

According to some wag at Wikipedia that’s the entire point of the joke and I’m greatful for the explanation because I’ve wondered about it for over 50 years, you know, like my Dreyfuss Affair block. Am I the only one who doesn’t get it? Hah, hah, hah, hah. Try pronouncing ‘Berry’ ‘Bury’. It will help.

My point is that the Romans had a very serious lead problem. Not only were all the pipes made of lead (which is easy to work), they liked the taste (it makes things sweeter, like dogs and anti-freeze) and would frequently serve wine in lead cups (the Greeks thought they were Barbarians anyway because they did not dilute their wine with water, like a spritzer, and instead liked it strong and straight).

Side effects? Oh, drain bamage for sure.

Lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults might include, high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders, reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm, miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women.

Many, many things about why the Romans were such assholes is explained by the fact they were all suffering from Lead Poisoning.

Charitably I use the same excuse for my Flint area relatives who see and saw nothing wrong at all with guzzling Quarts of it at our last gathering while I shopped desperately for anything not bottled with local water (Imported Beer does the trick. No, I don’t care that it makes me seem an effete elitest East Coast snob, I’m not in your will anyway you parsimonious prick.).

But Flint, alas, is not alone. It is sadly typical (Lead is really easy to work with) and part of the core infrastructure of a lot of places.

Shades of Flint in N.J. as Water Filters Fail to Trap Lead
By Elise Young, Bloomberg News
August 12, 2019

The state’s most-populous city has taken steps to limit lead exposure since January 2017, when it disclosed the presence of the element, which can cause organ damage. On Aug. 9 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said water from two homes had exceeded federal and state lead standards.

Flint, Michigan, a city where lead was detected in 2014, also tried filters. But in 2016, tests found the devices couldn’t capture lead in high quantities, according to Michigan environmental officials. Federal regulators say Flint’s water is safe after system upgrades, but Mayor Karen Weaver has said she’s not confident until more studies are conducted.

Newark, with a population of more than 280,000, weathered 1967 race riots that preceded decades of blight. In recent years, though, it’s stoked a rebirth on its New York proximity, drawing startups including Audible.com, the audiobook service later acquired by Amazon Inc., and AeroFarms, the vertical-farming company whose backers include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Newark’s former mayor, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, is running for president.

Free bottled water distribution started today.

“We’re erring on the side of caution,” Frank Baraff, a spokesman for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, said by telephone. Of three homes tested last month, he said, two showed excessive lead. The faucets had not been used for several hours and samples were taken immediately after they were opened, Baraff said. Homeowners typically are told to run the water for several minutes first to clear lead from lines.

“The filters were tested under worst-case conditions,” Baraff said.

LaTourette said there was no indication that the filters were faulty, but their performance is under review.

Newark is among the defendants in a lawsuit, filed in 2018 by the Newark Education Workers Caucus and the Natural Resources Defense Council, alleging that the city was failing to protect residents from lead in water. In an Aug. 10 letter to U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, the city’s legal counsel said Newark is readying “a protocol for a much more robust study of the effectiveness of filters.”

In a joint statement on Aug. 11, Baraka and Governor Phil Murphy said the city and state “will need support and assistance from the federal government if bottled water is to be provided and distributed to impacted residents.”