4 more face criminal charges in Flint water poisoning scandal

Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette announces charges against four new players, including former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, who were both appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

Top row: Former emergency manager Darnell Early. Bottom row, from left: Former emergency manager Gerald Ambrose, former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft and his subordinate, Daugherty Jones. All face criminal charges in the Flint water crisis.(Photo: Detroit News, AP, YouTube)

Top row: Former emergency manager Darnell Early. Bottom row, from left: Former emergency manager Gerald Ambrose, former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft and his subordinate, Daugherty Jones. All face criminal charges in the Flint water crisis.(Photo: Detroit News, AP, YouTube)

Flint — Two former emergency financial managers — empowered by state law and appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to run Flint — now face criminal charges for actions taken during their tenures that prosecutors say contributed to the city’s water crisis.

A yearlong Michigan Attorney General’s Office investigation into Flint’s water contamination issues has targeted the highest-ranking officials thus far. On Tuesday, investigators announced charges against former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, as well as a pair of former city officials.

That brings the number of government officials charged in the crisis to 13. The probe also focused the harshest spotlight to date on Michigan’s emergency manager law and Snyder’s use of it.

Attorney General Bill Schuette aired harsh criticisms of the emergency manager system — which empowered Earley and Ambrose with broad authority over Flint to address the city’s crumbling finances — Tuesday during a news conference in Flint where he announced the latest charges. In particular, Schuette faulted what he called its “fixation” on financial figures over people as a main factor in creating the city’s long-running water issues.

Full story:www.detroitnews.com, Dec 20 2016


Michigan attorney general sues France's Veolia in Flint water crisis

DETROIT  • The Michigan attorney general on Wednesday sued French water company Veolia and a Texas firm for "botching" their roles in the city of Flint's drinking water crisis that exposed residents to dangerously high lead levels.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said at a news conference in Flint that the civil lawsuit was filed in Genesee County Circuit Court against Veolia Environnement SA and Houston-based engineering services firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN).

The lawsuit charged Veolia with professional negligence and fraud that caused Flint's the lead poisoning to continue and worsen, and LAN with professional negligence.

Schuette said the state is seeking damages from the companies that could total hundreds of millions of dollars. His office said additional claims against the firms or others may be filed in the future.

"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," Schuette said. "In Flint, Veolia and LAN were hired to do a job and failed miserably, basically botched it. They didn't stop the water in Flint from being poisoned. They made it worse."

Veolia was hired in February 2015 by the city to address drinking water quality and produced at least one report and one public presentation stating the city's water was safe to drink, according to the lawsuit. The company knew its representations were false, the lawsuit stated.

Paris-based Veolia said Schuette's office did not contact the company about its work and that its contract was unrelated to the current lead problem.

It said it will defend itself against "these unwarranted allegations of wrongdoing." Veolia shares dipped 0.2 percent.

In 2013, LAN worked with Flint to prepare the city's water plant to treat new sources of drinking water, including the Flint River, according to the lawsuit.

LAN did not issue corrosion control measures in April 2014 and in August 2015 produced a report saying the water met federal safety requirements, failing to recognize the lead problem, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement, LAN said it "was not hired to operate the water plant and had no responsibility for water quality." It will "vigorously defend itself against these unfounded claims," it said.

Flint, with a population of about 100,000, was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its water source from Detroit's municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The city switched back in October.

The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system's and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes. Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable. The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

Last month, a Flint utilities administrator agreed to cooperate in investigations as part of a deal with prosecutors. Two state employees have been charged by Schuette's office, and he reaffirmed Wednesday that other employees would be charged as the investigation continues.

Todd Flood, who is leading the state probe, said on Wednesday he has not received all documents that have been requested, including those from Gov. Rick Snyder's office. Some people have criticized the governor and called on him to resign for the state's poor handling of the crisis.

When asked if Snyder was a target in the investigation, Schuette said there are no targets but "nobody is off the table."

In 2013, the administration of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay pushed to sign a $250,000 consulting contract with Veolia, saying that the company would help make the city water division more efficient. But the proposal met with strong opposition, and Veolia withdrew from consideration.

Original article; St Louis Post Dispatch, June 22, 2016


Replace pipes that 'poisoned' Flint water, lawsuit demands

Article from nr.news-republic.com  via fliuch.org

Matt Hopper holds and comforts Nyla Hopper, age 5, after she has her blood drawn to be tested for lead on January 26, 2016 in Flint, Michigan

Matt Hopper holds and comforts Nyla Hopper, age 5, after she has her blood drawn to be tested for lead on January 26, 2016 in Flint, Michigan

The downtrodden US city of Flint was poisoned in a misguided drive by penny-pinching officials to save money, a lawsuit filed Wednesday claimed, demanding the corroded lead pipes responsible for contaminating tap water be immediately replaced.

Officials are accused of ignoring months of health warnings about foul-smelling and discolored water, even as residents complained it was making them sick.

"In a failed attempt to save a few bucks, state-appointed officials poisoned the drinking water of an important American city, causing permanent damage to an entire generation of its children," Michael Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said in announcing the lawsuit.

"The people of Flint cannot trust the state of Michigan to fix this man-made disaster and that is why court oversight is critically needed."

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder speaks to the media regarding the status of the Flint water crisis on January 27, 2016 at Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder speaks to the media regarding the status of the Flint water crisis on January 27, 2016 at Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder -- who faces calls to resign over his handling of the scandal -- appointed a team of outside experts Wednesday to help the state resolve Flint's water crisis and deal with the long-term health impacts.

In an interview with CNN, set to air Wednesday evening, he admitted the number of children harmed by lead in the water could be much higher than tests have so far revealed.

"There could be many more," the governor told CNN, "and we're assuming that."

Snyder vowed at a news conference to help "address the damage that's been done" in the predominantly poor and black city of 100,000.

But he stopped short of promising to replace the pipes, which began releasing lead after Flint switched to a cheaper but dangerously corrosive water supply.

"It's a lot of work to take out pipes, to redo the infrastructure," Snyder told reporters.

"The short-term solution is to hopefully recoat, and have it validated by third parties so we know the water is safely coming out."

$1.5 billion fix

Tears stream down the face of Morgan Walker, 5, as she gets her finger pricked for a lead screening on January 26, 2016 in Flint, Michigan

Tears stream down the face of Morgan Walker, 5, as she gets her finger pricked for a lead screening on January 26, 2016 in Flint, Michigan

Lead exposure is harmful to everyone, but it can have devastating impacts on young children by irreversibly harming brain development. It has been shown to lower intelligence, stunt growth and lead to aggressive and anti-social behavior.

Water treatment plants across the United States are required to closely monitor lead levels in tap water and use chemicals to reduce acidity and coat pipes to prevent corrosion.

The state of Michigan is working to map out exactly where the old lead pipes are in Flint so it can "come up with the proper priorities about how we replace that infrastructure," Snyder said. But he said that was a long-term project and declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Flint's mayor has estimated that the cost of fixing the damage done to the city's infrastructure by the corrosive water could reach $1.5 billion.

The cash-strapped city was reportedly hoping to save $5 million over two years by drawing water from the Flint River beginning in April 2014 rather than continuing to buy it from nearby Detroit.

The state's environment department approved the switch even though the city's treatment plant was not able to produce water that met state and federal standards.

It cost $12 million to switch Flint back to the Detroit water system in October after a local pediatrician released a study showing that the number of children with elevated blood-lead levels had doubled from 2.1 to four percent.

Nation's pipes need replacing

The City of Flint Water Plant is illuminated by moonlight on January 23, 2016 in Flint, Michigan

The City of Flint Water Plant is illuminated by moonlight on January 23, 2016 in Flint, Michigan

Activists and environmentalists say the state now needs to spend whatever it takes to make sure the water is safe to drink.

"For years the state told us we were crazy, that our water was safe, which wasn't true," said Melissa Mays of Water You Fighting For, a Flint-based organization which joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the Natural Resources Defense Council in filing the lawsuit.

"For the sake of my kids and the people of Flint, we need a federal court to fix Flint's water problems because these city and state agencies failed us on their own."

Replacing all the lead pipes in Flint would take years and cause major disruption for residents because roads would need to be shut down to dig them out of the ground, said Greg DiLoreto of the American Society for Civil Engineers.

But while short-term fixes might be able to resolve Flint's lead problems for now, replacing those pipes is something that Flint -- and most other American cities -- has to start planning for, he told AFP.

A large proportion of the nation's water systems were built in the early 20th century and some pipes date back to the late 1800s.

"No engineer designed any system to last 150 years," DiLoreto said in a telephone interview.

"This is like your house. At some point you're going to have to put a new roof on it."