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Thu Jan 28, 2016, 04:40 AM

 

The EPA’s Silent, Guilty Role in the Flint Water Crisis

https://newrepublic.com/article/128156/epas-silent-guilty-role-flint-water-crisis

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in recent weeks has come under intense pressure over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which was precipitated two years ago when his administration, in an effort to cut costs, changed the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The move led to a dangerous increase in lead in the water supply; just 5 parts per billion is cause for concern, especially for children, but Flint’s tap water has had five times that amount. And yet, officials insisted until late last fall that the water was safe for its 100,000 residents to drink.

In response to a public outcry, Snyder has released nearly 300 pages of emails that reveal how poorly state agencies responded to the slow-moving crisis. But while Snyder, a Republican, and his appointees have borne the brunt of the outrage, it turns out the Environmental Protection Agency fell down on the job, too. Donald Trump, who’s promised a “tremendous cutting” of EPA funds if elected president, said this week the agency is “really guilty of” the Flint “horror show.” For once, Trump is not entirely wrong. On Thursday, EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman announced she will resign from her post. But the EPA, while contrite, hasn’t admitted wrongdoing. Like every other agency facing criticism for the water crisis, it has shifted the blame elsewhere—to Michigan’s state officials.

“Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the state of Michigan was responsible for implementing the regulations to protect their residents’ drinking water,” an EPA spokesperson said this week. “EPA’s ability to oversee management of that situation was impacted by failures and resistance at the state and local levels to work with us in a forthright, transparent, and proactive manner consistent with the seriousness of the risks to public health.”


“It is important to understand the clear roles here,” Hedman told The Detroit News. “Communication about lead in drinking water and the health impacts associated with that, that’s the role of [the Department of Health and Human Services], the county health department and the drinking water utility.”


It was only once Flint became a national story, and Snyder and President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency, that the EPA admitted its initial response was too slow. Residents and the American Civil LIberties Union were still petitioning the EPA to act in October, long after the agency first became aware of potential problems...

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