Ann Arbor, MI — Day three of a trial involving four children suing two engineering companies for alleged negligence related to the Flint water crisis commenced March 2 with witness testimony from Jeffery Hansen, a former employee of Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, one of the engineering firms named in the suit.
The children—Andrea Teed, Daylanna Warre, Emir Sherrod, and Riley Vanderhagen—say they suffered alleged injuries due to lead exposure. They are suing LAN, Veolia North America, and related companies that were hired by the city of Flint to advise officials on water issues as it switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River.
Moshe Maimon, one of the lawyers representing the four plaintiff children, directly examined Hansen for hours. His was the only testimony for the day.
Hansen is an engineer currently living in Michigan who had worked for LAN as a project manager in its Flint office when the city contracted with them in June 2013.
Maimon submitted to evidence several reports and studies that LAN had been involved with dating back to 2009. These included a 2011 report titled “Technical Memorandum Cost of Service Study: Flint Water Treatment Plant using the Flint River for Source Water,” as well as the firm’s 2013 water treatment proposal with the city.
The $34 million proposal listed three essential tasks. Maimon read them aloud:
1. A plant run to be scheduled later that summer to test the treatment systems and hydraulic capacity of the plant.
2. The development of an engineering planning report to determine the immediate and long-term improvements using the Flint River as a source of water.
3. An expedited design of the immediate improvements for continuous operation and treatment of the Flint River water.
LAN was initially contracted to perform the first two tasks but later entered into a “change order” with the city, which did involve design work.
As part of the contract, Warren Green, vice president and chief engineer for LAN, submitted a proposal to do a test run of the plant for 38 days between July 8, 2013 and Aug. 16, 2013. This was to allow time to collect data on the system and evaluate the water quality.
“What this is saying is that one of the purposes of the plant test run is to collect data and information generated during that test run. … And that LAN would evaluate the plant and unit systems performance for water quality and hydraulic capacity,” Maimon said.
He asked Hansen if “water quality” was synonymous with water safety and its limitations, including the lead and copper rule. Hansen said, “yes.”
LAN had not been contracted to collect the data, Hansen said, but they had agreed to review the data which would be provided by the city and evaluate the water for quality and safety.
However, the city failed to perform the tests because they encountered problems with equipment and different components of the plant, Maimon said.
“It would not have been your professional recommendation as a professional engineer that the city of Flint distribute water without testing the plant properly, first, correct?” Maimon asked Hansen.
Hansen said that was “beyond his realm” of understanding and that he relied on Green, who was the company’s water treatment expert.
Maimon cited a testimony from Hansen made in 2016 in which he was quoted saying “no,” he would not recommend that Flint distribute water without testing.
During his previous testimony, Hansen also said that Green recommended that the city not run the plant until proper testing is completed.
Maimon quoted Hansen directly:
“I don’t remember exactly what meeting and what date, but I do remember Warren recommending to the city that they do a not only that initial test run, but after all the improvements were done, do a full 60- to 90-day commissioning run to make sure everything was functioning properly.”
When Maimon asked Hansen if there were any documentation of Green’s recommendation to the city, Hansen said “no.”
Maimon continued to ask Hansen if he had personally witnessed any meetings where Green or other LAN employees “stood up” and insisted that the city test the water to ensure public health safety.
Hansen said there had been initial conversations, but he had never heard Green reference the safety of Flint residents.
A meeting took place at the Flint Water Treatment Plant on June 26, 2013, between LAN, city employees, and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy–known at the time as The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
According to Hansen’s previous testimony, during the meeting, Brent Wright from the city of Flint asked if corrosion control would be required. Two representatives from the former MDEQ said that it wasn’t necessary to start and all that would be required are two six-month monitoring periods for lead and copper.
Maimon asked again if Hansen or Green “stood up” and insisted that the city test the water to ensure public health safety.
Hansen said he recalled that after the meeting, Green met with two city employees on the sidewalk and said they should “think” about the corrosion control issue but did not mention anything about endangering the lives of children.
The trial then concluded for the day. It will resume March 3 at 9 a.m. via Zoom. To watch the trials, go to the Court’s website at www.mied.uscourts.gov.