The man who blew the whistle on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, may have been retaliated against by his employer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After the news about Flint’s water came to light, Miguel Del Toral, a regulations manager for the EPA, claims that he was treated poorly for whistleblowing.

Del Toral’s Original Memo About Flint

In June 2015, Del Toral wrote an internal memo within the EPA about the danger posed by the City of Flint’s corroding lead pipes. Del Toral claims that he did not leak the memo to the press. Rather, in July, a reporter published a copy of the memo obtained from a Flint citizen whom Del Toral had visited for the purpose of water testing.

Flint’s Problem: Lead in the Water

Lead is very toxic to humans. Lead is especially poisonous to children under the age of six, when even small doses of it can lead to irreversible brain damage and problems with physical development. It can get into a city’s water system by way of old lead pipes and plumbing fixtures that release lead particles into the water.

Congressional Investigation

With the rise of the Flint controversy, Congress tasked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with performing an investigation of all parties involved – the City of Flint, its mayor, the EPA, Michigan’s governor, and the Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). As part of its investigation, the oversight committee published some of the EPA’s memos, including those sent by Del Toral after he started the whistleblowing process.

Whistleblower Denied Meeting With Health Officials

The published emails reveal that the EPA denied Del Toral permission to attend a meeting with Milwaukee public health officials. Del Toral complained in an email that he felt he was barred from the meeting in retaliation for his original whistleblowing memo. He wrote to his supervisor, “It almost sounds like I’m to be stuck in a corner holding up a potted plant because of Flint.”

EPA Denies Whistleblowing Retaliation

Higher-ups at the EPA denied that they were retaliating against Del Toral, saying that he was denied permission to attend the meeting because it’s not his job to speak for the EPA at public health meetings. Then-head of the EPA, Susan Hedman, even went so far as to tell the Congressional Oversight Committee that she considered Del Toral a hero.

The outcome of Del Toral’s case is pending.

 

If you’ve been a victim of whistleblowing retaliation, you may be entitled to compensation, including back pay, interest, damages, and reimbursement of legal fees and other costs. Talk to our whistleblower lawyers to learn more.