Del Toral was first alerted to Flint’s water problems last spring, when Lee Anne Walters called the EPA to complain about high levels of lead in her tap water and warn officials that her child had been diagnosed with lead poisoning.
Del Toral followed up with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, asking about corrosion control treatment in Flint. Emails show that in February 2015, DEQ staff told Del Toral Flint had a corrosion control program.
But Walters found out from a city employee that Flint was not using any corrosion control treatment. This treatment helps prevent lead and other heavy metals from leaching from old pipes into drinking water. Walters called Del Toral right away, and let him know.
“Even though she had told me that, in my head, I was thinking that’s not possible. That’s, you know, I couldn’t believe that was true,” Del Toral said, “I thought there was a misunderstanding here or some kind of miscommunication.”
But Del Toral and Walters had lots of conversations that spring. Walters wanted to get to the bottom of the water problems at her house. She wanted to understand what was going on, Del Toral recalled.
“In getting to know (Walters) and getting to know how quickly she was picking things up and the information she was providing was accurate I thought I better look into this,” he said.
So he started digging for more information, asking the DEQ again what kind of corrosion control treatment Flint was using. DEQ finally acknowledged that there was no treatment in place.
He stopped short of saying the DEQ lied to him about corrosion control.