Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Bill Pierce
. . . .

Bill Pierce

Anne Stanton - July 20th, 2009
Bill Pierce: The Problem Solver
How a low-tech water filter is saving lives in the Third World

By Anne Stanton 7/20/09

Bill Pierce leads a quietly exciting life. But you might not get that
right away.
He’s pretty much a normal looking middle age guy—short and stocky with
white hair and a ruddy complexion. He’s the head of a small, but thriving
Kalkaska business and a Traverse City restaurant owner. He calls himself a
problem solver.
Problem solving is not a skill to be underrated.
Pierce has helped save thousands of lives in Third World countries over
the past year and has ambitions to save thousands more.
Take the story of how he’s helping some Kenyan villagers northwest of
Nairobi where the water contains natural levels of excess fluoride. The
fluoride is turning the teeth of the grown-ups into large rocks, making it
nearly impossible to eat, and etching away their bones. Even worse, the
fluoride is stunting the brain development of the unborn children, who
arrive into an already unforgiving world with a low IQ.
The naturally high fluorides come with the geology. About a quarter
million people are at risk in Kenya, and it’s also a problem near
Queretaro, Mexico.
Pierce suggested a solution: burn camel and cow bones and use the ashes in
a water filter to soak up the fluoride. He knew the answer instantly from
a career of solving these kinds of problems, and that’s what makes Pierce
vital for an organization called AquaClara, a group dedicated to making
drinking water safe in poor countries.

Pierce met the founders of AquaClara at a barbeque at the Peninsula
Community Library back in 2005.
The story really begins with Pierce’s wife, Penny, a librarian. A year
before, she had noticed that a guy named Bob “Mac” McDonald had been
regularly ordering obscure texts from the Library of Congress.
Curious by nature, she finally asked him at the barbeque the reason behind
the books, which bore mile-long titles and undecipherable words.
McDonald, a former executive project manager for Dow Chemical in Asia and
Africa, said he had come up with an idea with another former Dow
executive, Bill Jones, who was also at the barbecue.
“What we’re doing is putting together a technical package for Third World
countries. We’re going to teach the locals how to build water filters that
can handle raw sewage to get water that you and I could drink, and we’re
going to make it for a cost of 10 dollars.”
“Stop right here. Don’t move!” Penny grabbed her husband. “You three need
to talk to each other.” Her husband was wearing an apron smeared with
sauce, not looking like he would have much to say on the subject. In fact,
he was (and still is) the president of Great Lakes Carbon Treatment, which
he founded in 1990 to remediate pollution around the world. It was
purchased by Eveready a few years ago, and is now part of the Clean Harbor
group, the largest hazardous waste disposal company in the U.S.
Pierce listened to the men’s ideas on how to get to the next level of
clean water and then gently suggested they still had some work to do.

And so began the trio’s effort to save the world with a water filter that
needs no power, has no moving parts, and uses materials easily found
anywhere in the world: a large container, like a garbage pail, sand, pea
gravel, and a bowl.
The final ingredient—needed to kill the pathogens—came from Pierce. It’s a
combination of silver, copper and zinc—all natural biocides.
“This is technology that’s 5,000 years old and used by the Egyptians who
used to carry water in silver containers. Here in this country, the folks
heading out to the Western frontier would put silver coins in their water
to keep it fresh,” Pierce said.
Using the AquaClara water filter is easy—simply pour the water into the
bowl. It seeps through sand and then a layer of copper, silver, and zinc.
It’s a slow process, taking about a day to process five gallons of water.
That doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t to an American, who typically
uses 150 gallons a day. But the Third Worlders are different.
“They’d be lucky to use 16 to 24 gallons a day. To get it drinkable is
even better,” Pierce said.
The filter is so effective, it can handle raw sewage. And sewer water is a
tragic reality for those living in remote areas where a river is often
used for drinking, swimming, and defecation.
Pierce offers up the stark statistic that one in five children in Third
World countries will die this year from a disease related to bad water.
Ever the pragmatist, Pierce has thought about the ramifications of causing
a population explosion should this project ultimately catch fire.
“Good intentions always have consequences beyond control. But it doesn’t
mean you refuse to help save children. In the long run, the numbers will
smooth out. Farm families in the late 1800s, early 1900s had big families,
with the anticipation that some of the children wouldn’t make it. When the
death rate dropped off with newer medicines, so did the family size. My
grandmother was one of 20.”

The operations of AquaClara are now based in Holland, where McDonald moved
to get medical treatment for his wife, a cancer survivor. In truth, the
four key people of AquaClara operate out of their homes, including Marcia
Buck, who collaborates with existing nonprofit organizations.
Buck explained there is no way the three founders and herself could make
enough of an impact alone; the founders had neither the time nor the
interest in building another organization when so many good ones already
exist, she said.
The key groups include Habitat for Humanity, Engineers Without Borders,
Men for Mission, and Doctors without Borders. AquaClara also works with a
great number of churches who help people in Third World countries,
McDonald said.
Pierce said these nonprofits have already established a sense of trust
with the villagers, which can take years. And it requires trust for
someone—especially if they’re uneducated—to believe that there are tiny
bugs in the water that they can’t see, but are making them sick.
Pierce said that many other groups already distribute water filters, but
they don’t kill pathogens, the greatest source of illness. He patented the
AquaClara water purifier and he cheerfully offers the technology to other
nonprofit groups.

As accomplished businessmen, the three principals of AquaClara decided not
to give the units away carte blanche, but to sell them as a start-up for a
“We understood that if you give something away, it is perceived as having
no value, it’s worth nothing,” Pierce said. “If you give something away,
once it’s broken, it stays broken.”
That philosophy—you value what you truly earn—is inbred. As a kid, Pierce
worked every summer at his parents’ hunting and fishing camp in Canada,
fixing boat motors, guiding fishing expeditions, and cutting trees. He
paid his way through college to get a degree in environmental science.
When his own daughter reached college age, he asked her to do the same.
Pierce has a big heart that’s based on a strong Christian faith, using the
life of Jesus as a manual for his life, said Phil Murray, who co-owns
Phil’s on Front with Pierce.
“He’s not a bragger. He does wonderful things for people, and he doesn’t
seek recognition for it.”
Yet he’s also a bottom line kind of guy. “He picks apart the financials
and looks for holes, ways to improve profitability,” Murray said.

So back to the story—the idea of a micro-business works like this: One
person in a village is chosen as a water filter broker; she’s sold a unit
for, say, 50 cents (grandmas usually make the best entrepreneurs), and
then she charges a fee for installing the filter. When she sells one unit
to a family, she buys another one to sell.
The water filter works. One orphanage in El Dorado, Kenya, has reduced
dysentery by 90 percent within three months. AquaClara has put 2,500 water
purifiers into the villages and cities of 16 countries. The goal is 10,000
by 2010, and Pierce has not doubt they’ll achieve it.
Since AquaClara was founded four years ago, its work has gone far beyond
water filters; Pierce is called onto solve a wide range of environmental
“Because of NAFTA regulations, it turns out the folks in Mexico have to
spray their corn to meet U.S. standards to sell here, should they choose
to. Overspray of pesticides happens and you get that in the water; so what
are you going to do about that?” McDonald said.
“I called Bill, and he said, we’ll use activated charcoal for that. Turns
out he buys coconut charcoal all over the world. He had just returned from
a trip in which he’s signed a deal with some parties, a farming group that
produces a million coconuts a day! I think, pardon me, how’s that
possible? Bill is a marvelous problem solver. That’s what he does. That’s
why he’s a successful businessperson. He goes out on planes, trains and
boats and makes it happen.”

AquaClara is simultaneously working on the fluoride problem in Africa,
distributing water filters around the world, and developing a filter
system for naturally occurring arsenic in Bangladesh, Nicaragua and
A quick Google search reveals that water contamination is widespread and
often caused by companies that ought to know better. Miguel Angel Lopez
Rocha, for example, was eight years old when he fell into the Santiago
River last February. He swallowed river water and died three weeks later
from multiple organ failure, according to a FIAN Urgent Action report.
“The Santiago River in the state of Jalisco in Mexico is contaminated
because of the effluent of over 250 national and transnational industries,
like IBM, Roche, Nestle and Celanese. But also the city of Guadalajara
discharges more than 815 liters per second of untreated sewage into the
river upstream,” the report said.
Scientific studies show the river water contains heavy metals such as
lead, chromium, cobalt, mercury and arsenic, which can cause skin
diseases, headaches, fatigue, insomnia and decreased lung capacity. The
report said it was unclear which chemical led to Rocha’s death.
Pierce himself is now working on a problem in Mexico where people are
developing skin problems from working directly with dye used to make
colorful native blankets. The dye used for yellow contains arsenic,
cadmium and chromium. Pierce said blanket makers are being persuaded not
to wade through the dye nor put waste water on the ground. Another
suggestion he offered is to filter water with a bucket of rusty nails in
which the arsenic will stick to iron oxides.
The accounts of deaths in the Third World due to dysentery and toxins from
water are tragic and overwhelming, but Pierce has made peace with the
“My goal is one person at a time, one site at a time. We can’t stop global
warming; that’s not our cup of tea. We’re out there to save one child.”

The efforts of AquaClara depends on the generosity of others. To give or
get involved, go to aquaclara.org.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5