Company tied to Flint Water Crisis spins involvement with digital campaign 

Veolia North America, an engineering firm hired by Flint, increased advertisements in the last year that defend their role in the water crisis. 

The Flint Water Plant water tower in Flint, Mich.

The Flint Water Plant water tower in Flint, Mich.

Subscribe to MichMash on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

In this episode: 

  • Veolia North America, a company hired by Flint in 2015 to address water quality problems, ramped up ads defending its involvement ahead of a 2021 civil lawsuit against the company.
  • Kayla Ruble (Detroit News) talks with Cheyna Roth about what she found reporting on the ad campaign.
  • A new study shows five years after the Flint Water Crisis, residents suffer from higher rates of depression and one in four meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.  
  • A deadline to replace all lead service lines by Sept. 30 is pushed back due to construction and pandemic-related delays. 

Legal and digital advertising experts raised concerns about Veolia North America’s advertising campaign, defending their involvement in the Flint Water Crisis. Leading up to and during a civil suit against the company, ads appeared nationally and where the jury pool was selected in Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan. 

Information in the ads was specific to the trial and the issues the jury would be deliberating.  

“The reality is, in a 5-month trial the likelihood of eight members of a jury not Googling the Flint Water Crisis is very low. We all know that it’s pretty hard to keep our phones down,” guest Kayla Ruble of the Detroit News says.  

Criminal cases in the Flint Water Crisis have been delayed by legal procedures and the investigation process. Attorney General Dana Nessel dropped charges against public officials when she took office in 2019. A one-man grand jury, or evidence reviewed by a single judge, made new criminal charges against public officials. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in August that indictments could not be made using a one-man grand jury. It’s now up to a Genesee County judge to determine if the case will be dismissed or move on to a preliminary hearing.  

Flint residents are still struggling with a number of problems connected to the water crisis. Five years on, a new study shows residents suffer from a high rate of depression, and one in four meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Construction contract details and pandemic delays are pushing back Flint’s Sept. 30 deadline to remove all lead service lines. The size of Flint’s service area and damage done to the water system by corrosion also makes the project a challenge.  

“It’s just one more thing that I think prevents closure,” Ruble says. “Nothing is ever going to fix what happened in Flint, but there’s emotional closure. And I think in the conversation about mental health, there’s aspects of that that residents are just not getting in so many ways.”  

Related posts: 

Photo credit: Amber Neher.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.