WUOMFM

Flint activist testifies about frustration with DEQ officials

Jan 10, 2018

Activist Lee Anne Walters testifies about her experience dealing with DEQ employees. Behind her, a news photo of Walters trying to hand bottles of her tap water to government officials during a January 2015 public meeting at Flint city hall.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

One of the Flint residents to first sound the alarm about the city’s water problems testified today that state environmental officials refused to listen.

Lee Anne Walters testified against Department of Environmental Quality officials charged with various crimes related to the Flint water crisis.  

Shortly after Flint’s water source was switched to the Flint River, Walters says her family started developing rashes and other medical issues. By the fall of 2014, she says her water was turning brown and cloudy.

Walters testified that she tried repeatedly for months to convince the defendants to look into problems with her tap water.

At a January 2015 meeting at Flint city hall, she tried to get MDEQ officials to test her tap water. City workers tested Walters’ water in February and discovered lead at 104 parts per billion (the federal action level in 15 ppb). A later city test came in at 397 ppb.

But Walters testified she couldn’t interest the DEQ.  

Walters says defendant Stephen Busch was “demeaning and pompous” during one conversation about conflicting data on lead levels in the water.

She testified she even tried to give former DEQ official Liane Shekter-Smith a copy of a leaked EPA report.

“She refuses to take it,” Walters testified.

“Does she tell you why?” asked special counsel Todd Flood.

“She’d already seen it. She told me that report was flawed,” Walters quoted Shekter-Smith as saying, “there would not be a final report.”

The EPA staffer who gave Walters that internal document is scheduled to testify later this month.