Schuette Files Civil Suit against Veolia and LAN for Role in Flint Water Poisoning

FLINT, MI — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, joined by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Special Assistant Attorney General Noah Hall, Special Counsel Todd Flood, Chief Investigator Andy Arena, Chief Deputy Investigator Ellis Stafford and the Flint Investigation Team, today announced that his office has filed a civil lawsuit in Genesee County (MI) Circuit Court. The suit will hold multinational water engineering services corporation Veolia accountable for professional negligence and fraud, which caused Flint’s lead poisoning problem to continue and worsen, and created an ongoing public nuisance.

The civil suit also includes the water engineering services corporation known as Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN), also for professional negligence that caused Flint’s lead poisoning crisis to continue and worsen, contributing to an ongoing public nuisance. 

Schuette and Hall, a renowned environmental law expert who joined the Flint Water Investigative Team earlier this year, said they filed the suit to protest and advance the State of Michigan’s legal interests in the health and well-being of its citizens, and to hold Veolia and LAN accountable for the harms they caused in Flint. 

“Many things went tragically wrong in Flint, and both criminal conduct and civil conduct caused harm to the families of Flint and to the taxpayers of Michigan,” said Schuette.  “In Flint, Veolia and LAN were hired to do a job and failed miserably. Their fraudulent and dangerous recommendations made a bad situation worse.”

The suit alleges that Veolia and LAN committed or caused:

1.         Professional Negligence: The suit alleges that Veolia and LAN either knew or should have known that high chloride levels in Flint River water would cause corrosion in lead pipes unless treated, resulting in dangerous levels of lead being ingested by those drinking Flint water.  Veolia and LAN ignored several key warning signs, including citizen complaints of brown water, which a professional corporation should have seen as cause for further action before submitting reports to the public.  Veolia and LAN totally failed to take these actions.

2.         Public Nuisance: The suit alleges that the actions of Veolia and LAN irresponsibly interfered with the public right to health, safety, peace and comfort in Flint, in addition to violating the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, and that this conduct created a long-lasting, and possibly permanent, effect on these public rights.  The nuisance, particularly corroded lead pipes that pose a threat to drinking water, is ongoing with no end in sight.

The suit also alleges that Veolia committed:

3.         Fraud: The suit alleges fraud against Veolia for its false and misleading statements to the public regarding the safety of Flint’s drinking water and compliance with state and federal standards, in its taxpayer-funded analysis of the Flint water system. 

There may be additional claims in the future against these or other companies.  

The suit seeks to recover monetary damages, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, for harms caused by Veolia and LAN in Flint.  Because lead is dangerous to human health even at the lowest levels, Michigan citizens who have ingested poisoned water could face a range of immediate and long-term challenges in the areas of health care, special education needs, social services and replacement of water infrastructure.  The suit seeks to recover these damages from Veolia and LAN.

Background on the actions of the two companies named in this civil suit:

Veolia: Global giant Veolia contracted with the City of Flint in February 2015 to address the quality of its drinking water.  Veolia produced at least one report and one public presentation stating that Flint’s drinking water was “in compliance with State and Federal regulations, and based on those standards, the water is considered to meet drinking water requirements.”  Schuette’s suit alleges that Veolia completely failed to recognize the ongoing corrosion in lead pipes or the resulting public health crisis that was unfolding at the time.  The suit alleges that not only did Veolia fail to recommend any measures to address corrosion and resulting lead levels, but the recommendations it did offer would have caused the lead corrosion problem to worsen.

Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN): LAN is a Houston, Texas-based company that began working with the City of Flint in 2013 to prepare the city water plant to treat new sources of drinking water, including the Flint River.  Schuette’s suit alleges that LAN issued a report to the City of Flint in 2014 to address compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act that did not address the issue of corrosion control and took no action to implement corrosion control.  LAN then produced a second report, in August 2015, regarding Safe Drinking water Act compliance and again failed to address the hazards of lead in Flint’s water.  One of LAN’s recommendations included flushing fire hydrants, which likely contributed to artificially low levels of lead in residential water tests. 

The Attorney General filed the suit, known as State of Michigan vs. Veolia and LAN, today in the Genesee County Circuit Court in Flint, Michigan.  Once the suit has been served on Veolia and LAN, those corporations will have 28 days to respond.

Additional statements from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette:

“We have two teams:  a criminal team and a civil team.  Two teams pulling one wagon, and that wagon is justice for families of Flint.”

“These civil charges today, the previous criminal charges and the additional charges to come, are an effort, a pathway to rebuild and restore trust and confidence in government to families of Flint and indeed to the families and taxpayers across Michigan.”

Statement from Noah Hall, currently serving as a Special Assistant Attorney General on the Flint Investigation Team:

“It is our duty, both civilly and criminally, to hold these parties accountable for their role in the poisoning of the families of Flint,” said Hall.  “Today’s civil law suit is the first step in seeking damages caused by these companies that can help with Flint’s recovery and aid the residents of Flint who are still waiting for help.”   

Hall joined the Attorney General’s Flint Investigation Team in March 2016. Hall is an expert in environmental law who is widely sought for opinions on key legal cases and has been featured in many publications in Michigan and nationally.  He has taken a leave from his position at the Wayne State University in Detroit. 

Statement from Todd Flood, currently serving Lead Investigator on the Flint Investigation Team:

“I’ve been given the responsibility to seek justice in this manmade catastrophe,” said Flood. “The people of the state of Michigan and citizens of Flint will, and should not expect any less, this suit brings the ability to make citizens whole.”

Flint Water Investigation

Schuette announced the start of his investigation into the Flint water crisis on January 15, 2016, instituting a conflict wall that legally separated him and his investigation team from the team of state lawyers representing the Michigan governor’s office and other state departments and employees.

Earlier in the investigation, on April 20, 2016, Schuette previously charged two state workers and one city worker with a total of 13 felony charges and 5 misdemeanor charges multiple felonies in the first stage of his Flint Water Crisis investigation on April 20, 2016. 

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby are scheduled for a preliminary exam hearing on July 20th in Genesee County Circuit Court.  Michael Glasgow, formerly of the City of Flint, was also charged and later agreed to a plea agreement that is contingent on his cooperation as a witness in the case.

###

Complaint Exhibits:

  1. LAN (with Rowe Engineering, Inc.), “Analysis of the Flint River as a Permanent Water Supply for the City of Flint,” July 2011 (LAN’s 2011 Report) - available at:  http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_2011_Report_with_Appendices.pdf
  2. LAN (with Rowe Engineering, Inc.), “Technical Memorandum Cost of Service Study Flint Water Treatment Plant,” July 2011 (LAN’s 2011 Technical Memorandum) -http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_2011_Report_with_Appendices.pdf

  3. City of Flint, “Resolution Authorizing Approval to Enter into a Professional Engineering Services Contract for the Implementation of Placing the Flint Water Plant into Operation,” June 26, 2013 (2013 LAN Resolution) – available athttp://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Kurtz_Resolution_FWTP.PDF

  4. City of Flint, Responses to City of Flint Residents’ Water Questions, January 13, 2015 (City of Flint Responses to Citizens’ Water Questions) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/City_of_Flint_Water_Questions.pdf

  5. MDEQ, “Compliance Communication Total Trihalomethane Operational Evaluation Requested,” September 10, 2014 (2014 Compliance Communication) – available at  http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/MDEQ_THM_Compliance_Communication_September_10_2014.pdf

  6. Flint Journal/MLive, “General Motors shutting off Flint River water at engine plant over corrosion worries,” October 13, 2014 (2014 General Motors Corrosion Article) – available athttp://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/2014_General_Motors_Corrosion_Article.pdf

  7. LAN, Draft Operational Evaluation Report for the City of Flint, “Trihalomethane Formation Concern,” November 2014 (LAN’s 2014 Report) - available athttp://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_2014_Report.pdf

  8. Flint Journal/MLive, “Officials say Flint water is getting better, but many residents unsatisfied,” January 21, 2015 (2015 Residents Unsatisfied Article) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/2015_Residents_Unsatisfied_MLive_Article.pdf

  9. Veolia, “Response to Invitation to Bid for Water Quality Consultant,” Flint Proposal No.: 15-573, January 29, 2015 (Veolia’s 2015 Bid) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_2015_Bid.pdf

  10. City of Flint, “Resolution to Veolia Water for Water Quality Consultant,” February 4, 2015 (2015 Veolia Resolution) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_Flint_Contract.pdf

  11. Flint Journal/MLive, “University of Michigan-Flint reveals water quality test results to campus,” February 9, 2015 (2015 University of Michigan Lead Test Article) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/2015_University_of_Michigan_Lead_Test_Article.pdf

  12. City of Flint, “Flint Hires International Urban Water Experts of Veolia North America to Assess City’s Water Issues,” February 10, 2015 (2015 Veolia Announcement) – available at https://www.cityofflint.com/2015/02/10/flint-hires-international-urban-water-experts-of-veolia-north-america-to-assess-citys-water-issues/

  13. Veolia, “Interim Water Quality Report,” February 18, 2015 (Veolia’s 2015 Interim Report) - available at www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_2015_Interim_Report.pdf

  14. City of Flint, “Consumer Notice of Lead & Copper Results in Drinking Water,” February 2015 (2015 Consumer Notice of Lead) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/City_of_Flint_Lead_Copper_Consumer_Notice.pdf

  15. LAN, Final Operational Evaluation Report, “Trihalomethane Formation Concern,” February 27, 2015 (LAN’s February 2015 Report) - available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_February_2015_Report.pdf

  16. Jennifer Crooks and Miguel Del Toral Emails with MDEQ employees, February 26-27, 2015 (February 2015 EPA Email Correspondence) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Crooks_Del_toral_February_26_2015_Email.pdf

  17. Veolia, Flint Water Quality Report, March 12, 2015 (Veolia’s 2015 Report) - available at www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Veolia_2015_Report.pdf

  18. LAN, Final Operational Evaluation Report, “Trihalomethane Formation Concern,” August 27, 2015 (LAN’s August 2015 Report) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/LAN_August_2015_Report.pdf

  19. Governor Rick Snyder, “Declaration of Emergency for Flint,” January 5, 2016 (2016 Snyder Declaration of Emergency) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/Snyder_Declaration_of_Emergency.pdf

  20. EPA, “Emergency Administrative Order,” January 21, 2016 (2016 EPA Emergency Administrative Order) – available at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/Flint/EPA_Emergency_Administrative_Order.pd

     

Boil Water Advisories:

8/15/2014

9/6/2014

10/7/2014

2/9/2016