Timeline of Veolia North America's Flint, Michigan, Study
- The City of Flint began evaluating a change of its water source in an effort to save money.
- City and State officials discuss that upon a switch to the Flint River, the lead and copper monitoring would change.
- Sanitary Surveys of the Flint Water Treatment Plant conducted by the MDEQ express concern over the “condition of the piping” and that “much of the piping is over 60 years old and in need of replacement.” The MDEQ also estimated that approximately 80% of the service lines in the City of Flint were lead.
- Contrary to advice from LAN Engineers, MDEQ officials instruct the City of Flint not to use or test for corrosion control.
- Despite firsthand knowledge of the concerns expressed by Flint Water Treatment Plant staff, the City of Flint and MDEQ approve the switch to change water source to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure.
- Eight days before the switch to Flint River water, Flint Water Treatment Plant Operator warns officials at the MDEQ, ”I do not anticipate giving the OK to begin sending water out anytime soon. If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready. I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda.”
- At the time of the switch, neither the City of Flint nor the MDEQ had knowledge or updated records of where lead service lines were located in the City of Flint in order to properly conduct lead test samples and in violation of the Lead and Copper rule.
- City officials fail to use anti-corrosion measures to reduce the amount of lead leaching into the water supply.
- City of Flint water distribution staff discover completely stripped pipes in the Flint distribution system and immediately bring their concern to the attention of Public Works Director Howard Croft.
- Governor’s Office staff with knowledge of the Flint River water quality concerns begin discussing a switch back to DWSD, recognizing internally that drinking Flint River water was “downright scary.”
- Immediately after the switch, , residents begin reporting to local, state, and EPA officials that the water is discolored and causing health issues, including rashes.
- Despite boil water advisories and TTHM exceedances, state and local officials chose to “live with it” because it was a “huge cost savings” and the “high cost of switching” back to DWSD.
- City of Flint notifies residents of safety violations related to possibly carcinogenic water disinfection products, stemming from adding more chlorine without addressing other underlying issues - an issue officials reportedly learned about months before.
- State officials install water coolers in the state office building in Flint.
- Dr. Joan Rose, a water microbiologist advising the City of Flint, recommended to City officials that they involve the health department in water quality issues and suggested “more testing for hardness, iron, TDS, E.coli maybe lead from people who are having aesthetic issues is needed.”
- By January 29, 2015, top MDEQ drinking water officials discuss Flint water discoloration and changes to the water chemistry that may cause “corrosive water to slough material off of pipes” while acknowledging that it appeared “wide-spread” and was “likely a distribution system problem.”
- On January 29, 2015 State Rep. Sheldon Neely wrote to Governor Snyder and his executive staff stating: “Residents of Flint are already finding themselves forced to take drastic measures simply to have clean drinking water…The people of Flint bring bottles of brown water full of sediment and other foreign substances to community meetings, asking only to be treated as human beings.”
- City of Flint issues a Request for Proposal.
- City of Flint declines offer from Detroit water system to return to using their water supply.
- VNA is selected for a $40,000, short-term assignment focused primarily on diagnosing and helping solve the significant problems created by a cancer-causing containment called Trihalomethane.
VNA was involved in a short-term, limited engagement in the City of Flint.
- In discussing Flint water issues, Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose admits “[w]e made a mistake (as well as the Governor) and somebody has to fix it and not burden the taxpayers...”.
- Despite the mandate for VNA to focus on TTHMs, when VNA detected corrosive water that could result in lead issues in the future, VNA brought the issue to the attention of City officials, investigated the lead testing data provided by city officials, and made recommendations to address the potential future issue.
- At the outset of VNA’s work in Flint, it was made clear that returning to DWSD was not an option. On February 14, 2015, EM Gerald Ambrose specifically reminds VNA that their “charge in this project is to assess the current situation and provide recommendations to address the stated problems” and to “not be drawn into discussion” on the history or merits of the switch to Detroit Water.
- On February 18, 2015, high lead levels are detected in the home of a Flint resident. Despite this discovery during the time that VNA was on site at the Flint Water Treatment Plant, the lead test results are not shared with VNA.
- By February 27, 2015, EPA officials discuss with MDEQ staff the high lead test results discovered at a house in Flint and that was now “actual evidence that the water is leaching contaminants from the biofilms” in the Flint distribution system. EPA officials recommend that MDEQ contact the EPA’s “resident expert” on simultaneous compliance with lead and disinfection byproduct issues. MDEQ officials falsely assure the EPA that Flint “[h]as an Optimized Corrosion Control Program.”
- Even before VNA issued its final report, on February 28, 2015, EM Gerald Ambrose made clear that he was rejecting DWSD’s offer to reconnect because DWSD’s offer “doesn’t change the cost (or [his] mind).”
- At a City of Flint executive meeting on March 2, 2015, “lead tests” are discussed among City officials but again not shared with VNA.
- On March 4, 2015, VNA delivers final report to the the City of Flint and Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose recommending corrosion control despite the City's apparent compliance with lead and copper monitoring. Based on what was made available to it, and to address potential concerns with corrosive water, VNA in its Final Report to the City specifically recommended that the City: ”Contract with your engineer and initiate discussions with the State on the addition of a corrosion control chemical. This action can be submitted and discussed with the state at the same time as the other chemical and filter changes saving time and effort. A target dosage of 0.5 mg/L phosphate is suggested for improved corrosion control.”
- All of VNA’s recommendations to the City of Flint, with the exception of a GAC filter, were rejected or ignored.
- Governor’s office staff began looking into purchasing bottled water, with the MDEQ admitting that the fix for the distribution problems “will be years in the making.”
- On March 23, 2015, Flint City Council voles to “do all things necessary” to return to DWSD. EM Gerald Ambrose rejects the vote, calling it “incomprehensible.”
The City of Flint ignored VNA's recommendations on THM and corrosion control.
- MDEQ officials admit to EPA that Flint has no corrosion control treatment and inaccurate statements that the City of Flint’s sampling protocols for lead and copper monitoring complied with all state and federal requirements.
- EPA official Migel Del Toral delivers an interim report on Flint raising concerns about elevated lead levels in the distribution system. The report also acknowledges that VNA was “primarily focused on TTHMs control and other operational issues” and was “written prior to the recent discovery of high lead levels in Flint drinking water.”
- Flint residents file a lawsuit against the City of Flint seeking to return to DWSD and alleging that “there is a continuing problem with turbidity, lead, tin, and odorous water.”
- EPA Region 5 Administrator informs City of Flint officials that Del Toral’s report was “a preliminary draft and that it would be premature to draw any conclusions based on that draft.”
- Similarly, MDEQ spokesman releases a statement that “anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax.”
- In a press conference at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha announces elevated blood lead levels in Flint following the switch to the Flint River water.
- Dr. Marc Edwards informs EPA officials that Flint’s lead and copper sampling methods are improper.
- Public Works Director Howard Croft responds to a series of questions from the Department of Treasury, confirming that “Veolia’s commissioned scope of work was to focus on the TTHM concerns but they did make corrosion control one of their recommendations and the City along with LAN engineering started the process of developing a plan...to work with DEQ to establish the corrosion control following the installation of the new [GAC] filters.”
- EPA Region 5 officials exchange emails indicating they are “not so sure Flint is the community we want to go out on a limb for.” EPA officials circulate a “ten point plan” which included a proposed start date for corrosion control treatment of January 16, 2016.
- The City of Flint switches back to DWSD.
VNA was never responsible for lead testing.
- Gov. Snyder publicly acknowledges that an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred in the Flint area between June 2014 and November 2015.
- President Obama declares a state of emergency in Flint and authorizes $5 million in aid.
- The Flint Water Advisory Task Force issues final report finding that: “The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) failed in its fundamental responsibility to effectively enforce drinking water regulations.”
- A federal judge orders the implementation of door-to-door delivery of bottled water to every home without proper filtration equipment.
- Two of Flint's former emergency managers and two water plants officials are charged with felonies in relation to their roles in getting Flint to switch to the Flint River as a water source.
- Following suit from Flint residents, Mayor Weaver announces that the city plans to remove lead piping at 6,000 homes by the end of the year. The project is funded by a $100 million grant approved by Congress.
- An MDEQ study for the first half of 2017 officially claims that "water quality is restored." Over 30,000 Flint water samples had been tested during the crisis.
- Michigan enacts the strictest law in the United States for lead in drinking water to 12 parts per billion. This is projected to be achieved by 2025.
- The EPA Office of Inspector General publishes a report that strongly criticizes the local, state and federal government's delayed response to the water crisis--”“[t]he circumstances and response to Flint’s drinking water contamination involved implementation and oversight lapses at the EPA, the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and the city of Flint."
- The City of Flint Mayor's office reported that a total of 15,031 pipes have been excavated at homes in Flint.
- The City of Flint failed to meet its self-imposed deadline to replace all service lines and defaulted to its legally binding deadline of January 1, 2020.
- State of Michigan's $350 million lawsuit against Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam dismissed on nearly all claims, including professional negligence, public nuisance, fraud, and damages.
Judge Yuille dismissed virtually all of the Michigan State's case against VNA, including claims for professional negligence.