Facts from the courtroom
April 12, 2022

VNA engineer Marvin Gnagy’s deposition: what you need to know

On April 6th, 7th, and 11th, VNA engineer Marvin Gnagy’s deposition was played in the courtroom. Here’s what you need to know.

From the moment VNA’s one-week contract with the City of Flint was signed, City officials made it clear that VNA’s job was to assess TTHM and water discoloration issues – not to consider a return to Detroit water. 

  • Mr. Gnagy testified that VNA’s scope of work was restricted to analyzing for a cancer-causing chemical (TTHM) and water aesthetic issues. 
  • Despite this, Mr. Gnagy personally told former Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose that switching back to Detroit water was an option, but Mr. Ambrose wasn’t interested. 
  • Mr. Ambrose called a return to Detroit water “incomprehensible.” 
  • 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.

VNA recognized that Flint’s water could be corrosive, leading Mr. Gnagy to request the City of Flint provide its lead test results.  

  • Mr. Gnagy testified he told Flint Water Plant personnel and former Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose that there were corrosive water conditions in the Flint River water, which could lead to lead issues in the future.
  • When Mr. Gnagy told Mr. Ambrose that he was concerned about corrosivity, Mr. Ambrose told him to “stick to [his] scope if [he] want[ed] to get paid.”
  • Nevertheless, Mr. Gnagy requested all available lead testing results from the City, which showed that the water complied with all State and Federal regulations. 
  • VNA was never informed of the high lead test results from Flint resident LeeAnne Walters’ home even though this information was known by the Mayor, MDEQ, the EPA, and other Flint officials who immediately recognized the problem, saying things like “WOW,” “[d]id he find the lead!,” and “big worries here.”
  • VNA had no reason to suspect the City withheld information about high lead levels at the home of LeeAnne Walters.  
  • 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.
  • If the City had told VNA they were getting lead samples while the company was onsite, Mr. Gnagy said he would have checked into what their data was and potentially discussed a contract scope change. 

In its final report to the City of Flint, VNA made a series of important recommendations, including corrosion control. 

  • VNA recommended corrosion control in their final report, anticipating potential lead problems could occur if corrosion was not addressed. 
  • 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. The City of Flint never implemented that suggestion. 
  • Except for purchasing a filter, the City of Flint ignored all of VNA’s other recommendations as to how to improve the quality of the water. 
  • After VNA’s work in Flint was complete, VNA followed up to see if the City wanted additional help implementing these recommendations. VNA was told that the City itself was going to implement VNA’s corrosion control recommendations, but the City never did.
  • 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.