Facts from the courtroom
July 15, 2022

Author of Flint memo censored by EPA aligned with VNA on need for corrosion control

In late June and early July, Miguel Del Toral’s deposition was played in court. Mr. Del Toral was a long-time employee of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who helped expose the Flint Water Crisis. In June 2015, he authored EPA-memo-from-Miguel-Del-Toral-regarding-lead-testing.pdf">a memo warning of lead problems in Flint and the failure of the City and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to take appropriate action in response, but his report was censured by the EPA and not publicly released until six months later. 

Mr. Del Toral testified that the Flint Water Crisis was caused by several factors, including the decision to switch to the more corrosive Flint River as a water supply, the presence of lead service lines in the distribution system, and, most importantly, the City’s failure to practice corrosion control.  He agreed that the City experienced a “manmade disaster” by switching to the use of the Flint River without implementing appropriate treatment and monitoring. 

Here’s what you need to know 

VNA’s recommendations were aligned with Mr. Del Toral’s conclusions about what should have happened in Flint and would have addressed the problems with Flint’s water had they been implemented.  

  • Mr. Del Toral testified that it would have been inappropriate to add corrosion control chemicals without first undertaking a study, which is what VNA recommended. 
  • Mr. Del Toral testified that, prior to his deposition, he had not seen VNA’s February 2015 report recommending the City of Flint add corrosion control or seen Robert Bincsik’s email noting that “Marvin from Veolia” had suggested that the City add phosphates to the water to help prevent future lead problems. 
  • He also overlooked the language in VNA’s final report to the City, recommending the City “contract with its engineer and initiate discussions with the State on the addition of a corrosion control chemical.” 

The MDEQ failed to mandate corrosion control upon the switch to the Flint River, as required by the Lead and Copper Rule. 

  • Mr. Del Toral testified that the MDEQ maintained a written policy requiring communities to maintain appropriate corrosion control treatment, but it did not follow this policy in Flint.
  • Instead, the MDEQ allowed Flint to monitor lead and copper for two six-month periods before assessing the need for a corrosion control study, a decision that Mr. Del Toral called “insane.”
  • The MDEQ made this decision for cost-saving reasons, knowing that the Flint River would be an interim source and that any corrosion control needs would differ once Flint had switched permanently to the new KWA system. 
  • When Mr. Del Toral asked Stephen Busch of the MDEQ directly about corrosion control, Mr. Busch responded that Flint had an optimized corrosion control program even though he knew this was a lie. 

The City’s lead testing protocols were flawed, unreliable, and provided false assurances about the safety of the water in Flint.

  • Mr. Del Toral testified that he grew concerned about the reliability of the City’s lead testing protocols. He testified that the City could not focus its testing on sites with lead service lines because it did not know where lead service lines were located in Flint. 
  • Mr. Del Toral also stated that the City’s practice of pre-flushing lines before conducting testing caused the tests to understate lead levels. 
  • When Mr. Del Toral voiced his concerns with the MDEQ’s Liane Shekter-Smith, she told him the rules allowed pre-flushing and that the agency would not change its approach.