Michael Glasgow testimony points to long pattern of negligence on behalf of Flint officials
On April 25-27, 2022, former Flint Water Treatment Operator Michael Glasgow took to the stand. His testimony pointed to a long pattern of malfeasance and negligence on behalf of City and State officials that both sparked and prolonged the Flint Water Crisis.
Key takeaways from his testimony include:
- Mr. Glasgow raised concerns about the treatment plant’s ability to produce safe drinking water in the weeks prior to the switch from DWSD, and those concerns were dismissed by his superiors.
- Mr. Glasgow was well aware of the role of corrosion control in preventing lead contamination and did not need VNA or anybody else to explain this concept to him.
- Mr. Glasgow explained that he began to ‘connect the dots’ about a lead problem in Flint’s drinking water in February 2015 after receiving exceptionally high results from the home of Ms. LeeAnne Walters.
- Despite his concerns, Mr. Glasgow reaffirmed that VNA was not provided Ms. Walters’ lead sample results and, in fact, the results that were provided to VNA showed the water to be within state and federal standards.
- Mr. Glasgow was also aware that Flint’s sampling procedure was not capturing the highest lead levels from the higher risk locations and, at the direction of the MDEQ, he deliberately altered the June 2015 Water Quality Report to remove the two highest lead readings.
Here’s what else you need to know.
Flint officials chose not to install corrosion control treatment before switching to the Flint River despite their first-hand knowledge of potential lead contamination in the City’s aging infrastructure.
- In anticipation of a switch to the Flint River, Mr. Glasgow met with MDEQ officials who told him the Plant did not need to use corrosion control measures.
- Instead, the MDEQ said that it would review Lead and Copper rule testing data for two six-month periods following the switch to the Flint River and reevaluate.
- Mr. Glasgow was surprised by this direction from the MDEQ, as he recognized that failure to add corrosion control could lead to lead problems.
- Mr. Glasgow testified that MDEQ later acknowledged that it made the wrong call when it said corrosion control was not required.
Despite Mr. Glasgow’s concerns that the treatment plant was not ready, City and State officials pushed ahead with the switch in water source.
- Mr. Glasgow testified that Plant staff did not have adequate training on the equipment and that a 30-day test run revealed significant problems with the plant’s operations.
- The City ignored one of LAN’s key recommendations at the time, endorsed by Glasgow, to conduct a 60-to-90-day test to ensure the Plant could operate successfully.
- Mr. Glasgow made multiple requests of his superiors to delay the switch for 90-100 days to give him more time to prepare for the safe treatment of the water.
- In response to his pleas, former Public Works Director Howard Croft told Mr. Glasgow “We have to meet this deadline. No is not an answer or an option.”
- Mr. Glasgow told MDEQ regulators in an email prior to the switch that he had serious concerns and that “if water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction… I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda.”
- MDEQ rubber stamped the switch despite Mr. Glasgow’s concerns, and never responded to his email.
- Mr. Glasgow testified he was aware of no contact between the City of Flint and VNA in response to the high lead levels found in LeeAnne Walters’ home.
- Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose and officials from the MDEQ and EPA all knew of the high lead levels in Ms. Walters’ tap water but did not inform VNA or the public, despite VNA’s request that the City provide its consultants all relevant lead sampling data.
- The data that was provided to VNA showed the water to be in compliance with State and Federal regulations about lead.
- In the wake of the high lead result from Ms. Walters’ home, Mr. Glasgow told LAN engineer Warren Green to start designing a phosphate feed system to add corrosion control to the plant’s process because it would “likely” be needed.
- Flint officials overruled this suggestion and said the City would “cross that bridge when they got to it” at the end of the second round of Lead and Copper rule testing.
- For nearly a year and a half, the people with the power to fix this problem hid critical information and did nothing to address the water quality issues in Flint.
- Mr. Glasgow testified that Ms. Walterss high test result of 104 ppb prompted the EPA to ask the MDEQ for the City’s Lead and Copper rule report.
- The MDEQ’s Michael Prysby and Steven Busch instructed Mr. Glasgow to lower the required number of samples from 100 to 60 and remove the two high test results from the report, including the one from Ms. Walter’s home, in order to show compliance with the Lead and Copper testing rule.
- Despite having a “hard time rationalizing” these instructions, Mr. Glasgow nevertheless deferred to the regulators at MDEQ.
Flint officials ignored almost all of VNA’s recommendations to the City, including the need for corrosion control
- Mr. Glasgow testified that it took him several weeks and multiple requests of his superiors before he was provided a copy of VNA’s final report even though the report concerned water treatment issues that related to Mr. Glasgow’s role at the Plant.
- With the exception of purchasing a filter, the City of Flint ignored all of VNA’s recommendations as to how to improve the quality of the water, including the recommendation to add corrosion control.
- When VNA’s work in Flint was complete, VNA followed up to see if the City wanted additional help implementing these recommendations. VNA was told the City itself was going to implement VNA’s corrosion control recommendations, but the City never did.