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Witness: Officials Warned About Flint Plant

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

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On Monday, as part of a larger criminal preliminary exam hearing of four current and former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials, a Genesee County water expert testified that he had issued a warning to not open the Flint Water Treatment plant, saying it was not yet properly equipped to produce clean water, and those on staff were not experienced enough to run the operation.

Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Division Director John O’Brien noted that he, among other officials, tried to raise these concerns with city officials in early 2014. At the time, the facility wasn’t capable of producing drinkable water prior to the switch to the Flint River, noted The Detroit News.

Plant Capacity

O’Brien also noted that the plant’s chlorine room was under construction at the time. Employees manning the facility had also reportedly been “riding shotgun” on garbage trucks as haulers only two weeks earlier. Normally, those working at water treatment plants need 90 days to six months of training in order to work independently.

"We believed that plant was not ready to go based on conversations we had with the state and city" previously, O'Brien said. Water regulator Stephen Busch informed him "he was directed to" allow the plant to operate.

© iStock.com / LindaParton

On Monday, as part of a larger criminal preliminary exam hearing of four current and former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials, a Genesee County water expert testified that he had issued a warning to not open the Flint Water Treatment plant yet, citing it was not yet properly equipped to produce clean water, and those on staff were not experienced enough to run the operation.

Despite O’Brien’s warnings to the contrary, Howard Croft, the city’s director of public works, said the plant was ready to go. Jerry Ambrose, who was the financial controller for the city at the time, said it was a good deal for Flint.

Flint officials were informed that the switch did not have to occur on that specific date.

According to NBC 25 News, water regulators Busch, Michael Prysby, Liane Shekter-Smith and Patrick Cook are all facing numerous charges for their alleged role in the Flint water crisis.  

Cross-examination begins Friday.

Other Concerns

According to MLive, this was also tied in with the city’s first attempt to operate its water plant since the 1960s. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality never required Flint to treat the water to make it less corrosive to home plumbing and transmission lines, which caused lead to leach into the water supply.

Use of river water is also the suspected culprit behind an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed at least a dozen people in 2014 and 2015.

Previous Study

A study headed up by University of Michigan researchers and released last summer appears to have confirmed what was long suspected about the source of heightened lead levels in the city of Flint’s drinking water: The heavy metal leached from inside service lines, and the release could have been prevented with a commonly used corrosion-inhibiting additive.

The research, published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters, said scales on the interiors of 10 lead service line samples taken from around the Michigan city after the drinking-water crisis were subject to “selective dissolution” due to corrosive water and insufficient treatment. The university described the pattern of corrosion and dissolution as “a Swiss cheese pattern.”

   

Tagged categories: Corrosion; Criminal acts; Ethics; Government; NA; North America; potable water; Program/Project Management

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