Environmental Protection Agency officials apparently weren’t willing to “go out on a limb” for Flint, Mich., as it became apparent the city’s water supply had been contaminated with high levels of lead, according to an internal agency memo revealed at a Tuesday congressional hearing.
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, revealed an internal EPA memo during a hearing Tuesday between agency officials responsible for overseeing clean water operations in Michigan. The September 2015 memo said, “I’m not so sure Flint is the community we want to go out on a limb for.”
Chaffetz shows internal EPA memo on Flint H20. Says “I’m not so sure Flint is the community we want to go out on a limb for”
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 15, 2016
The EPA administrator says that Susan Hedman was courageous for resigning,” Chaffetz said in the heearing. “It didn’t take us but a couple hours once we got these memos to find the problem here. you can take down that. Why isn’t flint the community they go to?”
“You know, of all the communities out there, the one that’s having the toughest time is the one that needs the most protection,” Chaffetz said. “You can shake your head and say, oh, yeah, but the EPA had every opportunity to make — make the right move here, and they didn’t… because one of the things that is fundamentally and totally wrong here is they had the information and they would not release it to the public.”
For months, Flint has been grappling with a lead crisis in the city’s water stemming from state regulators failure to apply the correct chemical treatment after the city switched water supplies form Lake Huron to the Flint River. State regulators finally admitted in October 2015 that it had applied the wrong chemical treatment to Flint’s water, resulting in corrosive water leaching lead off old pipes and into people’s drinking water.
EPA officials, however, knew of the lead leaching for months before the news went public. EPA spent months quietly warning state regulators of the lack of corrosion controls for Flint’s water supplies. The EPA told the state it needed to use chemical treatments to prevent lead lines and plumbing from getting into Flint’s drinking water, but the agency did nothing to publicize its concerns over the city’s water despite the state’s refusal to control against lead poisoning.
The Detroit News reported that EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman said “she sought a legal opinion on whether the EPA could force action, but it wasn’t completed until November.”
Hedman resigned in January 2016 after she was implicated in Flint’s water crisis.
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