Facts from the courtroom
June 10, 2022

Testimony – Officials knew there was a serious lead problem in Flint and withheld information

On June 8-9, VNA engineer Marvin Gnagy testified in court. Plaintiffs’ attorneys did somersaults to distract from the fact that government officials, who are responsible for the Flint Water Crisis, knew there was a serious lead problem in Flint and withheld this information from both VNA and the public. 

Here are the facts you need to know.

Fact 1 – Despite their limited scope, VNA recognized lead could be a problem and asked the City to provide all available test results. 

VNA was hired more than a year after the crisis began, for a one-month project to address a cancer-causing chemical called TTHM and other water aesthetic issues. 

When VNA expressed concern about water corrosivity, Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose told them to “stick to [your] scope if [you] want to get paid.”

VNA nevertheless requested all available lead and copper testing results from the City, and the information that was provided showed the water to be in compliance with state and federal standards. 

VNA had no choice but to rely on the City to provide data on lead since lead testing is not something that can be done from the plant and must take place at individual homes. 

Fact 2 – City officials became aware of a serious lead problem while VNA was working in Flint, but never shared this information with VNA

VNA was never informed of the exceptionally high lead test results from Flint resident LeeAnne Walters’ home, even though they had specifically requested all available lead test results. 

Ms. Walters’ high test result was known by the Mayor, the MDEQ, the EPA and other Flint officials, who immediately recognized the problem. None of them shared this information with VNA.

In addition to withholding this critical information from VNA, officials failed to inform the public of the issue. 

Fact 3 – City officials refused to even consider a return to Detroit Water despite it being the easiest way to fix the water quality problem. 

VNA was repeatedly told by the City of Flint that returning to Detroit Water was not an option. 

Flint Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose called it “incomprehensible” to return to Detroit Water and urged VNA “not to be drawn into a discussion” on the history or merits of the switch from Detroit Water.

Flint officials changed the City’s water source to save money over the health and well-being of its residents. They had no intention of returning to Detroit Water because of the high cost of switching. 

VNA had no power to overrule the government officials who refused to return to Detroit Water.

Fact 4 – VNA made sound recommendations based on the information provided to them, including the addition of corrosion control. 

Based on the data that the City provided to VNA, combined with their on-site analyses at the plant, VNA made a series of recommendations for the City to bring the Plant into compliance based on their expert analysis. 

VNA had no way to know that City officials had withheld critical information about lead in Flint’s drinking water, which would have significantly impacted their recommendations to the City.

Fact 5 – VNA’s recommendations were based solely on the technical expertise of the engineers who worked on the ground in Flint

VNA engineers exclusively made all recommendations to the City of Flint, based on their engineering judgement and that alone.

Business development considerations never influenced the course of VNA’s engagement with the City of Flint and business development leaders never had operational control of the project.  

Fact 6 – Flint officials ignored almost all of VNA’s recommendations to the City, including the recommendation to add corrosion control.

In their final report to the City, VNA urged Flint officials to work with the City’s engineer and the MDEQ to evaluate the need for corrosion control and the use of phosphate for that purpose. 

VNA followed up with City officials in April 2015 and was told that the City was proceeding in-house to implement their recommendations. 

With the exception of purchasing a filter, the City of Flint ignored all of VNA’s other recommendations, including the recommendation for a corrosion control study. 

VNA had every reason to believe Flint officials would do their job and take appropriate action, but instead their recommendations were ignored, disregarded and dismissed.