Warren Green, vice president and chief engineer of Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, an engineering consultant to Flint, Mich. during its disastrous water crisis of 2014 and 2015, testified in federal court last week that city officials forged ahead to switch its source of drinking water without adequate water softening or testing after one municipal manager assured him that the more extensive testing would be done.

LAN, a unit of engineering firm Leo A Daly, originally had been hired as a sub-consultant to Flint's main water engineering firm, Rowe Professional Consultants.

As the targets in a civil negligence lawsuit by four Flint children exposed to higher lead levels caused by the switch, the Houston-based firm and Veolia North America have said they were sidelined by city and state officials intent on the water source change and keeping costs of operating Flint's old water treatment plant low.

LAN has maintained its position about what happened in Flint for years, saying the city ignored its anti-corrosion ideas.

All the blame belongs to their government clients, the engineers say.

In testimony in federal court in Ann Arbor, Green said he and a city water department official, Brent Wright, discussed needed water softening to prevent corrosion when the city switched its water supply temporarily to the Flint River.

Green said he visited the plant In 2014 and saw water softening being bypassed.

“I basically looked at Brent," testified Green, who then angrily said "[expletive] are you doing?"

Wright and Green "had a very animated discussion," said the LAN engineer. "We calmed down, I said 'you can’t be doing this,' and he said, ‘I know, but I’m getting pressure from downtown.'”

Green also said, “I don’t like to get in anyone’s face but I did here and it’s the only time I did that with a client in 34 years.”

In another part of his testimony, Green said he was assured by Flint plant managers that the water would be tested for 60 to 90 days. Instead, only 20 days of testing was carried out.

"'I said, 'You can't be doing this,' and he said, 'I know, but I'm getting pressure from downtown.'"
Warren Green, vice president and chief engineer, Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam

According to an account of the trial on the website MLive, Green said he advocated for the longer testing in a 2013 meeting with Howard Croft, Flint's former public works director, Ed Kurtz, the city's former emergency manager, and Wright.

Green also said that water treatment plant staffers told him the more extensive testing would be done and that he took their word for it.

The first weeks of the trial have been a slow, often tedious review of documents and events from seven years ago. Green, a longtime water engineer and former regulator who has been involved in writing water treatment standards, has spent more time testifying in the courtroom so far than any other witness.

When the jury was out of the courtroom, and in motions found in the court docket, another parallel development was unfolding that could have big implications for the outcome.

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and Croft, both facing criminal misdemeanor charges of neglect of duty related to the Flint water crisis, are fighting to stay off the witness stand in the engineers' civil lawsuit negligence trial.

If they are compelled to appear, their lawyers say, they will invoke their Fifth Amendment right and decline to give answers.

Veolia and the plaintiffs both are trying to force Snyder and other state government officials to testify live.

Snyder had made a videotaped deposition in June 2020 for the engineers' negligence civil trial.

But that was 18 months before the state attorney brought the neglect-of-duty charges against him in January 2021.

"Since the parties have made clear that they intend to ask Governor Snyder questions at trial that go to the same issues underlying his criminal charges," his attorneys wrote to Judge Judith Levy. The attorneys said they will counsel Snyder to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to reply.

At the time of his two-day deposition in the negligence trial, the chance of Snyder being charge criminally appeared low, his lawyer argued in the written motion.

Charges Over Flint Water

Holding people responsible for the Flint water crisis has been a complex, stop-and-start process.

In 2017, Michigan's Office of Special Counsel charged 15 state and local public officials, and seven struck plea deals.

Then the state attorney dropped charges against the remaining eight in 2019. But a new state administration in January 2021 charged several officials, including Snyder, who pleaded not guilty.

Two other former state officials, Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan's former chief medical executive, and former state health department director Nick Lyon, face felony involuntary manslaughter charges related to Flint's water and a legionella outbreak tied to the death of 12 people.

Snyder pleaded not guilty to both of his neglect-of-duty charges. One charge arises from his allegedly failing to inquire more closely and monitor the Flint water crisis. The other involves his alleged failure to declare a state of emergency in Flint.

This article was corrected March 24 to accurately reflect which Flint officials were at the meeting described in court testimony by Warren Green.