Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced civil lawsuits against water and waste management company Veolia, engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN) and its parent company Leo A. Daly Co. who were paid consultants in the Flint water crisis on Wednesday.
The lawsuits are for fraud and negligence.
Veolia issued a statement following the announcement.
“The company is disappointed that the Attorney General has taken this action and will vigorously defend itself against these unwarranted allegations of wrongdoing,” said the statement.
“Veolia’s technical experts noted this in the company’s final report to Flint in March 2015 and also identified potential water quality issues,” said the statement. “The company recommended changes in the chemicals and dosing used in the treatment process to minimize TTHM formation along with risks associated with corrosion.”
The company said that the allegations of wrongdoing levied against them were unwarranted as the Governor’s task force has largely assigned the blame to the state of Michigan. It also said that the attorney general had not talked to them about their involvement in Flint.
LAN also issued a statement.
“The attorney general has blatantly mischaracterized the role of LAN’s service to Flint and ignores the findings of every public investigation into this tragedy that the key decisions concerning the treatment of the water from the Flint River were made by the City of Flint and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ),” said the statement. “We are surprised and disappointed that the State would change direction and wrongfully accuse LAN of acting improperly. LAN will vigorously defend itself against these unfounded claims.”
LAN said they were not was not hired to operate the plant and had no responsibility for water quality, but had regularly advised that corrosion control be added to the system.
The City of Flint water supply became contaminated with lead in April 2015 when the city switched its water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to the Flint River. Officials failed to treat the newly sourced water with corrosion inhibitors and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply, causing elevated levels of the metal in drinking water.
In January, the city declared a state of emergency as the lead contamination caused a serious public danger to the city’s nearly 100,000 residents.
“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 water was switched back to the Detroit water system in October of 2015, is still not safe to drink.