Michigan Attorney General blasts engineering companies in Flint lawsuits

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Attorney General Bill Schuette promised civil charges would be filed on Wednesday and delivered on that promise, filing a lawsuit against two companies he says are responsible for causing or worsening Flint's lead-tainted water.

Schuette announced the charges against Veolia North America and the corporation Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN). Both companies were hired under state management during the disastrous switch to the Flint River.

"In Flint, Veolia and LAN were hired to do a job and failed miserably," Schuette said. "Basically botched it. Didn't stop the water in Flint from being poisoned. They made it worse - that's what they did."

LAN was hired in 2013 to upgrade and help operate Flint's 100-year-old water treatment plant. Schuette said they failed to do their job.

"LAN botched the job, Failed to help operate the water treatment plant without any corrosion control program. This meant that lead leached into the water that would go to your home, poisoning the water," he said.

But the company still does work for the city. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said the city is under contract and is still paying LAN for services.

"As of this Aril, this city has paid this company more than $3 million, closer to $3.5 million for services. For them to be accused of actions that helped poison the city's water supply with lead is absolutely unbelievable," Weaver said.

The other company accused of botching the job is Veolia North America. That company was hired as a water quality consultant and told the people that it was okay to use and drink the water. That was in February 2015.

"Veolia stated that while discoloration may be unappealing - the water is safe," Shuette said.

The Attorney General said there needs to be a victims compensation fund and that damages could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

"These kids were drinking from a lead straw," special investigator Todd Flood said.

The group of attorneys, which also included Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton and special assistat attorney general Noah Hall, said this is part of the plan to secure funding to compensate the people of Flint and taxpayers and provide funding for health, education, infrastructure. Schuette promised that more criminal charges are coming soon.

"I guaranteed you there will be more charges to come and there will," Schuette said.

Veolia responded to charges with this statement:

"The company is disappointed that the Attorney General has taken this action and will vigorously defend itself against these unwarranted allegations of wrongdoing. The official report from the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, commissioned by the Governor's office and completed after dozens of interviews, contained no reference to Veolia and assigned the company no blame or responsibility for the current crisis. The Attorney General has not talked to Veolia about its involvement in Flint, interviewed the company's technical experts or asked any questions about our one-time, one-month contract with Flint. Veolia's engagement with the city was wholly unrelated to the current lead issues. In fact, lead and copper testing were specifically not included in the company's scope of work because the city represented that it was itself conducting required testing at the time of our analysis.

Flint hired Veolia nearly one full year after the change in water source, and the focus of Veolia's analysis, at Flint's direction, was only to help the city address concerns about the levels of disinfection byproducts (TTHM),
discoloration, and taste-and-odor issues related to the drinking water treatment process. During our one-month consultation, the water produced and provided by Flint met the treatment standards for levels of disinfection byproducts. Veolia's technical experts noted this in the company's final report to Flint in March 2015 and also identified potential water quality issues. 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 stands by the analysis provided to Flint under a limited scope in February 2015 and will defend itself against unwarranted allegations of wrongdoing levied while the Governor's own task force largely assigned the blame on the state of Michigan itself."

LAN has not yet released a statement.