We applaud Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s step toward justice in Flint by suing water privateer Veolia for negligence and fraud in relation to the lead crisis.
From early 2015, Veolia failed to warn Flint residents of possible lead contamination in their drinking water — despite claiming to be experts on water treatment. Since then, the corporation has systematically denied any responsibility, claiming, falsely, that it was hired to evaluate water quality problems — but not lead.
Documents released today by the Attorney General prove Veolia’s alibi is untrue. Time and again in its own proposal to the City of Flint, Veolia promised to evaluate the city’s water treatment processes, in the broadest way possible, to ensure the water was safe for Flint residents to drink. And time and again, Veolia failed to warn of lead contamination, threatening people’s lives. Even worse, from the beginning, Veolia prioritized its own profits over people’s health. The documents make clear that Veolia was vying for a bigger contract and more control over Flint’s water system.
Veolia’s behavior in Flint aligns with its abysmal track record around the country and around the world. From Pittsburgh, PA to Plymouth, MA, Veolia faces legal challenges for its mismanagement and negligence. And communities are getting wise, rejecting Veolia’s bids for private water contract in major cities like St. Louis and Baltimore.
As Veolia has attempted to write itself out of the Flint water crisis, the National Association of Water Companies — the private water industry’s mouthpiece — is capitalizing on the same crisis to paint the private industry as the “solution.” Today’s suit reveals that nothing could be further from the truth.
This weekend, hundreds of mayors will gather in Indianapolis — a city that paid millions to escape a Veolia contract — to discuss the challenges facing their cities. We call on mayors across the country to heed Attorney General Schuette’s warning, and see Veolia for what it is — a threat to municipal water systems and a risk for people’s health.