State files lawsuit against two companies in water crisis - WNEM TV 5

State files lawsuit against two companies in water crisis

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The state filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday over Flint’s water crisis.

Attorney Bill Schuette announced charges against two companies he said “botched” their jobs, causing the city’s water supply to be tainted with lead.

Veolia, a French-based, global company has been charged with negligence, fraud and public nuisance. Schuette said Veolia is the largest provider of waste water services in the world.

Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN), a Texas corporation doing business in Michigan, was also charged for negligence and public nuisance.

“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. Their fraudulent and dangerous recommendations made a bad situation worse.”

The suit alleges Veolia and LAN either knew, or should have known, high chloride levels in Flint River water would cause corrosion in lead pipes unless treated.

According to the lawsuit, both companies ignored several warning signs, including complaints of brown water which impacted public health and safety.

The suit also alleges Veolia committed fraud by giving false and misleading statements to the public regarding the safety of the drinking water.

Two months ago, Schuette’s investigation led to criminal charges against three people. On Wednesday, Schuette said more charges are expected in the investigation. 

"I guarantee there will be more charges, and there will," he said. 

The following are statements from Veolia: 

A spokesperson for LAN also released this 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). The Attorney General specifically referred to a decision not to provide appropriate corrosion control, which resulted in a significant decline in water quality, a decision that was made by the City and the MDEQ, not by LAN. Contrary to statements by the Attorney General, LAN was not hired to operate the plant and had no responsibility for water quality, but, and although LAN was not asked, LAN had regularly advised that corrosion control should be added and that the system needed to be fully tested before going online.  The Flint Water Advisory Task Force found that this tragedy was "a story of government failure" at all levels. 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.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver released this statement:

“I met with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today here at City Hall. I thank him and his team for the work they are doing to hold all those accountable who had a role in the man-made water disaster we are still dealing with here in the City of Flint. It’s disturbing to hear that companies hired to ensure the safety of the City’s water supply may not have done what they were paid to do and that those alleged actions may have been a factor in causing lead to enter into Flint’s water supply.

“It’s interesting that when you look at Veolia, I can recall the public crying out and raising questions about how state-appointed people making decisions for the City of Flint chose to bring the company in and pay them thousands of dollars to tell residents the water was OK, when their own eyes were telling them it wasn’t. As for LAN, as of this April, the City has paid the company more than $3.5 million for services, and for them to be accused of actions that may have helped poison the city’s water supply with lead is unbelievable. The City does have a current contract with LAN, and we will be taking a serious look at it as we wait anxiously to see what is decided in a court of law on whether these companies are found to be responsible for these actions including negligence and fraud. One thing we know now is that the citizens of Flint are suffering from this water catastrophe and there is plenty of blame to go around. Whoever had a role in creating this man-made water disaster must be held accountable.

“I applaud Attorney General Bill Schuette and his team’s strategy of filing a civil lawsuit in effort to obtain the funds that are desperately needed now and will continue to be required in the future as the citizens and leaders of the City of Flint work to recover from this crisis. We did not deserve what happened here, but we absolutely deserve the funding necessary to provide the resources, like healthcare, nutrition and new infrastructure that we need to repair and recover from the damage that has been done.”

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