FLINT, Mich. – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed a civil lawsuit against two water engineering firms for alleged professional negligence and fraud in the lead poisoning of Flint's water.
The lawsuit against Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN) was filed Wednesday in Genesee County Circuit Court.
Read lawsuit: State of Michigan vs. Veolia and LAN
“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:
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
The suit seeks to recover monetary damages, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, for harms caused by Veolia and LAN in Flint.
“These kids were drinking from a lead straw,” said special counsel Todd Flood.
Once the suit has been served on Veolia and LAN, those corporations will have 28 days to respond.
About the firms' involvement in Flint
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.
AG's Flint water investigation
Schuette announced the start of his investigation into the Flint water crisis in January.
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.
We have 2 teams: criminal team &civil team. 2 teams pulling 1 wagon, and that wagon is justice for Flint families. pic.twitter.com/rAK9oXcx3Y— Michigan Attorney General (@MIAttyGen) June 22, 2016
In Flint, Veolia and LAN were hired to do a job and failed miserably.— Michigan Attorney General (@MIAttyGen) June 22, 2016