Facts from the courtroom
March 25, 2022

Former VNA VP David Gadis’ deposition – The facts

On March 23rd and 24th, former VNA Vice President David Gadis’
deposition was played in the courtroom.

Mr. Gadis testified that VNA took on the Flint water project because
the company wanted to help the people of Flint address the water
crisis. Mr. Gadis was proud that VNA stepped up to help the community when no one else would – he even testified that he has family in Flint, but the Court decided to exclude this evidence. VNA was the only water contractor in the United States that submitted a bid to help Flint solve its water crisis.

Here are the facts:

Flint government officials failed to inform VNA that they were in possession of high lead level results

  • Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose and officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and EPA all knew of the high lead levels in Flint resident LeeAnne Walters’ tap water but chose not to inform VNA consultants or the public. 
  • Over the concerns of Flint residents, the City and Mayor insisted the water was safe.
  • City officials provided VNA with data that showed the water was in compliance with Federal regulations on lead. 
  • Water analysis was not within VNA’s scope of work, as determined by the City of Flint, and VNA had no way of knowing that Flint officials had provided them with faulty and incomplete data.
  • VNA had no choice but to rely on the information the City provided since lead testing is not something a consultant like VNA can do from the plant as it requires testing at individual homes. 
  • Flint officials hid the truth about lead from VNA – just like they hid the truth from the residents of Flint.

VNA’s scope of work was narrowly focused on a single, cancer causing chemical called TTHM 

  • The City of Flint hired VNA to conduct a one-week review of the operations of the Flint Water Treatment plant and address the problems caused by a cancer-causing chemical (TTHM) in the water and other water aesthetic issues.
  • The City never asked VNA to look into lead contamination, nor did they give any indication to that they were in possession of high lead test results.  
  • Even though they were hamstrung with bad information, VNA gave good advice to the City of Flint. VNA engineers analyzed the data that they were provided and made a series of important recommendations on how to improve the water quality.
  • The limited test results VNA received from Flint officials showed the water was in compliance with State and Federal regulations. The engineers had no reason to suspect the City provided faulty lead testing data to them. 
  • Nonetheless, VNA did identify that the water was corrosive, and therefore recommended corrosion control in their final report, anticipating potential lead problems could occur if corrosion was not addressed. This recommendation was ultimately ignored by the City of Flint – the only people with the power to act.

The “water is safe” comment at the public meeting has been taken completely out of context

  • The full record of the meeting makes it clear VNA warned that it had not conducted its own tests and only reviewed the test results collected by the City. 
  • At the time, VNA had no reason to suspect that the City had hidden high lead test results from its engineers. 
  • The tests provided to VNA by City officials showed that the water was in compliance with State and Federal quality standards, which was the basis for VNA’s use of the word “safe” when describing the water in the public meeting.  
  • Mr. Gadis personally drank Flint’s tap water on the day of the presentation, believing that the City had provided VNA with accurate test results and that, according to those results, the water was safe. 
  • When people at that meeting asked about broader concerns about the water, VNA explained that its team had reviewed the data collected by the City and found that it was within legal limits.

The “lead seems to be a problem” email has been similarly misconstrued by the plaintiffs’ lawyers

  • VNA was responding to a news report regarding high lead levels found in a drinking fountain at the University of Michigan and the need for controlled and meaningful testing to evaluate the issue. 
  • VNA was beginning an internal discussion and assessment on the issue before expanding the conversation externally.
  • In fact, it was this email, among other things, that prompted VNA to ask the City to provide them with their lead and copper rule testing 
  • VNA reviewed the testing conducted by the City of Flint, as well as all of the testing done at the University. The test results showed compliance with State and Federal water standards. 

Business development considerations never influenced VNA’s recommendations to the City 

  • VNA’s engineers exclusively made any and all recommendations to the City of Flint
  • Business development considerations never dictated the course of VNA’s engagement in Flint and Business Development leaders never had operational control of the project.
  • VNA Director Joseph Nasuta’s comment that Veolia should “Not let BD make any technical calls” refers to the timing of the presentations to the City of Flint and not to the actual recommendations contained in the presentations. 
  • Indeed, Mr. Nasuta advised engineer Marvin Gnagy to develop and make recommendations based on his engineering judgement and that alone.
  • VNA had every reason to think Flint officials would do their job and take appropriate action, but instead their recommendations were ignored, disregarded and dismissed

The City refused to even consider a return to Detroit Water despite it being the easiest way to fix the water quality problem 

  • The City of Flint made it clear to VNA that returning to Detroit Water was not an option. 
  • First Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose called it “incomprehensible” to switch water sources 
  • Flint officials changed the City’s water source to save money over the health and well-being of its residents. 
  • Despite the fact that DSWD offered to reconnect Flint to its water source with “no strings attached,” Flint officials rejected that offer repeatedly. They had no intention of switching given the high cost that would be incurred.
  • VNA had no power to overrule government officials who refused to return to Detroit Water.