Facts from the courtroom
May 9, 2022

VNA was powerless to intervene as City of Flint officials chose to ignore most recommendations

On May 4th, 5th, and 9th 2022, water resources engineer Richard Humann took the stand. Mr. Humann is a paid witness for the plaintiffs who, in his own report, found the Flint Water Crisis to be “a story of government failure, inaction, delay and environmental injustice.” Mr. Humann also agreed, under oath, that VNA was powerless to intervene as City of Flint officials chose to ignore all but one of their recommendations. 

Here is what you need to know.

Mr. Humann relied on remarkably little information when drafting his report.

  • Mr. Humann never even read the contract between the City of Flint and VNA.
  • Mr. Humann cited just one deposition in his report despite the hundreds of thousands of pages of written documents and testimony from all the individuals involved in the Flint Water Crisis. 
  • He never visited the City of Flint or toured the Flint Water Treatment Plant.
  • He never spoke with anyone who worked for the Flint Department of Public Works or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 
  • He also never spoke with anybody from VNA, and his report does not contain a single reference to any VNA employee. 

Mr. Humann lacks an understanding of the basic facts related to the Flint Water Crisis.

  • Mr. Humann did not know that the MDEQ told the City of Flint that it did not need to install corrosion control when the plant went online in April 2014. 
  • He also did not know that VNA recommended the addition of phosphate as a form of corrosion control to address potential lead problems, as confirmed by Robert Bincsik’s February 2015 email.
  • He did not consider the fact that lead levels recorded in December 2014 were below the action level – information that VNA relied upon when making its recommendations. 

Mr. Humann’s report failed to consider the fact that Flint officials withheld critical information about high lead levels from VNA and the public.

  • Despite asking for all relevant lead testing data, VNA was never informed of the high lead test results from Flint resident LeeAnne Walter’s home, even though this information was known by the Mayor, MDEQ, the EPA and other Flint officials. 
  • All the lead testing provided to VNA by Flint officials showed that the water was in compliance with all applicable State and Federal regulations. 
  • VNA had no choice but to rely on the information the City provided and had no reason to suspect the City withheld information about high lead levels in LeeAnne Walter’s home.

City and State officials caused the Flint Water Crisis when they chose to switch the City’s water source to save money.

  • In an effort to save money, City and State officials decided to change Flint’s water source from treated water from Detroit to untreated water from the Flint River. 
  • They ignored expert advice to conduct test runs at the Flint Water Treatment plant and to install corrosion control treatment before implementing the switch despite having first-hand knowledge of potential lead issues with the City’s aging infrastructure. 
  • After it became clear that the water had serious problems, these same officials repeatedly refused to consider a return to Detroit Water – and specifically instructed VNA that they were uninterested in their opinion as to whether a return to Detroit would be the best solution.
  • Flint Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose specifically instructed VNA not to be “drawn into a discussion” on the history or merits of the switch from Detroit Water.
  • For nearly a year and a half, the people with the power to fix this problem did nothing, even after the people of Flint protested the water’s disgusting taste, smell, and color and reported becoming sick from drinking and bathing in the water. 

In their final report to the City of Flint, VNA made a series of important recommendations, including corrosion control—all but one of their recommendations were ignored.

  • VNA recommended implementing corrosion control, 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 recommendations on 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 their recommendations. VNA was told that the City itself was going to implement VNA’s recommendations, including corrosion control, 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.