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Thursday
Jun232016

Veolia named in Flint, Michigan lawsuit.

Today's Washington Post  carries an update story on the lead-pipe debacle that has put the health of thousands of Flint, Michigan children at risk. It reports that civil charges have been laid against Velolia and another contractor who "botched" their work on the water supply system "contibuting to the city's lead polluted water crisis."

What has this to do with us? Well simply that Veloia is the same international water supply and wastewater contractor that handles the water supply throiughout this District It has had this contract for many years, and although there is no reason to suspect that its work is anything other than impecable, it does no harm to take note of its work elsewhere, and make sure that adequate supervision is applied in our case to ensure that such a situation never occurs here. 

Flint was a particular case, and Velolia's guilt remains unproven, but forewarned is forearmed, and knowledge is king in this situation.

Here is the story:

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) on Wednesday filed civil charges against two engineering firms that he said “botched” their work on Flint’s water supply system, contributing to the city’s ongoing lead-polluted water crisis.

The complaint filed Wednesday in a Genesee County Circuit Court targets Veolia North American, part of a global corporation that specializes in operating water and sewer systems for municipalities, which contracted with Flint in early 2015 to help with its drinking water quality. It says the company later produced at least one report saying that the city’s drinking water met state and federal standards, despite growing complaints from residents about problems.

The suit also names Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, or LAN, a Texas-based water engineering firm that began working with Flint in 2013 to prepare the city for its ill-fated switch to the Flint River as its source of drinking water. Schuette alleges that the company failed to ensure that Flint complied with safe drinking water laws, namely by failing to add “corrosion control” chemicals that could have helped prevent lead leaching into the city’s aging pipes.

“They failed miserably in their job, basically botched it,” Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “They didn’t stop the water in Flint from being poisoned. They made it worse.”

Both companies are facing civil charges of professional negligence and public nuisance. Veolia was also charged with fraud. In essence, the firms are accused of ignoring key warning signs about problems with Flint’s drinking water and helping to create a public health hazard with no end in sight. Veolia also is accused of making false and misleading statements about the safety of the city’s water. Wednesday’s suit seeks monetary damages likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Schuette’s office said.

“They violated their legal duties and caused the Flint Water crisis to occur, continue and worsen,” the complaint states. “As a result, the state of Michigan suffered damaged for past, ongoing, and future harm to public health, destruction of public property, and cost to public resources.”

Veolia said in a statement that it is “disappointed” by the civil charges “and will vigorously defend itself against these unwarranted allegations of wrongdoing.” The company noted that Michigan’s attorney general had not spoken with Veolia about its work in Flint, and that an official report by an independent task force “contained no reference to Veolia and assigned the company no blame or responsibility for the current crisis.”

The debacle in Flint began to unfold more than two years ago. For decades, the once-thriving industrial city had purchased water from Detroit, which was piped from Lake Huron, with anti-corrosion chemicals added along the way. In early 2014, with the city under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, officials switched to Flint River water as part of a money-saving measure. But the state’s environmental quality agency failed to ensure that corrosion-control additives were part of the new water supply.

Flint’s water was contaminated with toxic lead soon after, as the leaching of old pipes allowed rust, iron and lead to contaminate the city’s tap water. Thousands of children in the city have been exposed to the toxic substance. Most Flint residents remain on bottled water, even after the city switched back to its previous water source last fall."

 

 


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