Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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Environmentalist at sewage treatment plant

Photo: BartCo / E+ / Getty Images

               Failure and accountability.


               That’s where we are with the dead guy in the reservoir. For more than three weeks he floated there, undetected and decaying, in the reservoir at Highland Park, the primary water source for some 100,000 Rochesterians.


               Moms, dads, kids, schools, restaurants, all drinking water in which a dead body had been stewing for most of a month.


               All because the city failed.


               All because the people in charge of security had their heads up their asses.


               Because municipal water supplies are supposed to be protected. Lives depend on it. It’s a big thing. Everybody knows that. Municipal water supplies are obvious targets for terrorists or criminals. They are a vulnerable part of our critical infrastructure.


               And Rochester’s was unprotected.


               The city that didn’t think to defend the Kodak Center against vehicular assault didn’t think to protect its reservoir against intrusion.


               At least not in a way that worked.


               The mayor got up and talked about the fence and the cameras and the thermal imaging almost in a boastful manner, like he was talking about how good his administration was, like he was about to pass out certificates of commendation to everybody involved.


               When the reality is that his city security operation not only failed to keep an unsophisticated intruder out of the supposedly protected reservoir, but failed to detect him once he was there. A hundred thousand Rochesterians were depending on their city government to protect them, and their city government failed them.


               That’s why little kids spent three weeks drinking dead-guy water.


               Thank God it wasn’t a terrorist or an anarchist, or another psycho come to town hoping to kill as many people as he could. Thank God it wasn’t a drug dealer trying to get rid of some fentanyl or a homeless guy wanting to take a shit.


               This was a real-world test of competence and preparedness.


               And it was an abject failure.


               The fence did not stop him, the technology did not detect him.


               And that’s where accountability comes in.


               Somebody is responsible. Protecting the reservoir was somebody’s job, and that somebody failed, and should be held accountable.


               You can be stupid, but if your stupidity endangers a third of the city, if it puts lives in danger, you don’t get to play anymore.


               The LinkedIn profile of Vincent B. McIntyre Sr., the “superintendent of security operations for the city of Rochester” – who also identifies as a “voice over professional” – says, “he is responsible for the protection and security of all city affiliated facilities and grounds.”


               The Highland Park Reservoir is a city-affiliated facility.


               “As the Chief he designs, plans, and implements appropriate security procedures and operations to assure asset protection, personal safety, and site security.”


               I would suggest that when someone can get into your reservoir undetected – much less die and decompose there – that you have not successfully designed, planned or implemented appropriate security procedures and operations to assure site security.


               Not by a damn sight.


               I would also suggest that if you are the city’s security chief and these are your responsibilities and this incident happened, that probably you are in the wrong line of work. I would also suggest that you are responsible and you should be held accountable.


               Because your failure to secure the reservoir killed a man and endangered the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of others.


               And potentially far worse, your failure to do your job created a vulnerability which, with a sinister and sophisticated intruder, could have allowed an act of terrorism or mass murder.


               There is no faceless group responsibility here, with fingers pointing in every direction and no direction. This is one man who had one job and he didn’t do it.


               And this is one asset which must be protected.


               Dozens of private buildings and properties across the city have guards who watch over them around the clock. Businesses have camera systems and motion detectors and electrical surveillance that really works. There are barriers, not excuses, and properties are secure.


               But the reservoir wasn’t.


               The federal government long ago said the Highland Park Reservoir had to be covered, to protect it from intruders and natural contaminants, but the city of Rochester got a waiver, to leave it open air a few years longer, without that layer of protection. Common sense would have indicated that skipping that security barrier would have called for strengthening other security barriers.


               But that didn’t happen.


               There was a failure.


               And now there should be accountability.

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