Facts from the courtroom
June 17, 2022

Water supervisor Busch advised against VNA’s recommendation to use corrosion control in Flint

On June 16, 2022, Stephen Busch testified in court. Mr. Busch was the water supervisor for District 8 (Lansing) at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) from 2012 to 2016. Despite being aware as early as 2012 that the Flint River was highly corrosive, he gave the approval to Flint officials to move forward with the water switch without the use of corrosion control treatment. Later, when Mr. Busch became aware of a pervasive lead problem in Flint, he still did not mandate corrosion control treatment and even advised against VNA’s recommendation to do so, citing the Flint River as a temporary water source.

Mr. Busch was charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes related to the Flint Water Crisis. Charges were later dismissed by prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation in ongoing criminal investigations. To this day, however, not a single government official has been held accountable. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

The MDEQ approved the City’s plans to use the Flint River as an interim water source without requiring the use of corrosion control despite being aware that the Flint River was contaminated and highly corrosive. 

  • Mr. Busch knew the Flint River posed increased health and microbial risks and the Plant would need substantial upgrades and additional staff to treat it.
  • He nevertheless approved the switch to the Flint River as an interim water source in 2014 without mandating corrosion control treatment. 
  • Neither the City, nor the MDEQ, ever studied the impact of the change in water chemistry on the distribution system prior to the switch or warned Flint residents of the risks of the switch in water sources. 

Even after learning of a pervasive lead problem in Flint’s water and receiving hundreds of citizen complaints, the MDEQ did nothing to intervene in the Flint Water Crisis. 

  • Mr. Busch continued to claim the water was “safe” despite significant evidence of elevated lead results, including at the University of Michigan and Flint resident LeeAnne Walter’s home. 
  • In response to concerns from the EPA’s Jennifer Crooks regarding exceptionally high lead levels discovered at the home of LeeAnne Walters in February 2015, Mr. Busch responded: “…the City is meeting the 90th percentile. Not sure why region 5 [EPA] sees this one sample as such a big deal.”
  • Later, when the EPA’s Miguel del Torol raised concerns about the MDEQ’s monitoring regime and Flint’s lack of corrosion control, Mr. Busch said the second-guessing from the EPA was becoming “tiresome” and complained of “overreach.”
  • For months after VNA had completed its work in Flint, Mr. Busch and the MDEQ continued to ignore clear evidence of lead problems and refused to institute corrosion control since the Flint River was a temporary solution and it would take too long to implement.