Facts from the courtroom
June 8, 2022

Water analyst Adam Rosenthal knew Flint Water Treatment Plant was not ready to treat water

On June 1 and June 7, 2022, Adam Rosenthal’s deposition was played in court. Rosenthal was an environmental water quality analyst at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which fast-tracked Flint’s plans to withdraw water from the Flint River and failed to require the City to add corrosion control to protect against lead contamination.

Mr. Rosenthal testified that he knew that the Flint Water Treatment Plant (FWTP) was not ready to treat the Flint River water, yet he did nothing to prevent the City from moving forward. Once the water crisis was in full swing, Rosenthal willfully manipulated lead testing results and forwarded an altered report to the EPA that excluded certain tests showing a high level of lead in Flint’s water.

In 2016, Rosenthal was charged with misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty. He accepted a plea deal in 2017. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Rosenthal knew the FWTP was not ready to operate on a full-time basis but felt powerless to overrule Emergency Managers. 

  • Rosenthal testified that the MDEQ told the City they should not use the Flint River as a full-time water source but Flint officials overrode their recommendation due to cost savings.
  • Rosenthal testified that the MDEQ considered the FWTP a neglected “mothball” plant that was not able to process safe drinking water on a full-time basis. 
  • Rosenthal was aware that testing leading up to the switch had gone poorly and was warned by Plant operator Michael Glasgow that the plant lacked adequate staffing and resources to handle the switch safely.  
  • Rosenthal testified that he believed “the emergency managers were in control of everything” and that state drinking water monitors were unable to challenge the decisions of the emergency managers appointed by former Governor Rick Snyder
  • Rosenthal recalled thinking “somebody needs to stop this – the governor needs to stop this” but did nothing to actually stop it.

The MDEQ failed to require the addition of corrosion control to Flint’s water treatment processes and failed to adequately supervise the City’s lead and copper testing program.

  • Rosenthal never issued a violation notice to Flint even though the City frequently failed to provide testing information on time or give the MDEQ a full list of approved lead and copper testing site locations.
  • Rosenthal was personally involved in the decision to omit the high lead levels from LeeAnne Walter’s home that would have proved the City was in violation of lead and copper testing rule limits. 
  • The MDEQ gave approval to the City of Flint to begin operating the FWTP without the addition of corrosion control even though the MDEQ was well aware of Flint’s aging infrastructure and the fact that it had been receiving water treated for corrosion control from DWSD prior to the switch.