Facts from the courtroom
March 17, 2022

VNA engineer Theping Chen’s deposition: What you need to know

On March 16, 2022, VNA engineer Theping Chen’s deposition was played in the courtroom. Here’s what you need to know. 

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

  • Mr. Chen confirmed VNA was told by the City of Flint that returning to Detroit Water was not an option.
  • Flint 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. 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 was never asked to analyze for lead contamination in the Flint River water 

  • Mr. Chen testified that VNA’s scope of work was restricted to analyzing for a cancer-causing chemical (TTHM) and water aesthetic issues. 
  • The limited lead 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 had provided faulty lead testing data to them.
  • Neither Mr. Chen nor VNA were aware of the high lead levels in the home of Flint resident LeeAnne Walters while working at the Flint plant. 

VNA nonetheless recommended corrosion control, anticipating potential lead problems due to the corrosive river water, as well as other important recommendations

  • VNA recommended the City work with its engineer to implement a corrosion control program to treat the water.
  • With the exception of purchasing a filter, the City of Flint ignored all of VNA’s other proposals and suggestions 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. 

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

  • Business development considerations never dictated the course of VNA’s engagement with the City of Flint and Business Development leaders never had operational control of the project. 
  • VNA engineers exclusively made all recommendations to the City of Flint, based on their engineering judgment and that alone.