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EPA Takes Over Lead Testing in Flint

Monday, January 25, 2016

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In what has become a national crisis over localized contaminated drinking water, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said it would be taking over water testing and ordering an independent review of what happened in Michigan.

However, the EPA’s administrator who has overseen the region where lead permeated the drinking water in the City of Flint will not be the one in charge. Susan Hedman has resigned effective Feb. 1, according to several media sources.

©iStock.com / skyfilms85

The EPA has said it would take over testing Flint drinking water and order an independent investigation into the crisis. But the EPA's regional director for Michigan also resigned.

Both announcements came Thursday (Jan. 21), just one day after the state’s House of Representatives approved a request from Gov. Rick Snyder to provide $28 million more for the drinking water debacle, according to the Washington Post.

Apologies, Admissions

Snyder also apologized Wednesday (Jan. 20) during his State of the State address.

“I’m sorry most of all that I let you down,” said Snyder. “You deserve better.”

Apologies, resignations and admissions of guilt are relatively new in the ongoing saga involving contaminated service lines that elected and appointed officials originally said were safe. As previously reported, state and local officials had been telling residents that their water was safe to drink since 2014 even though they had evidence to support the contrary.

But since the beginning of 2016, that tune has changed. Snyder—following in the steps of county and city officials who took action late last year—declared a state of emergency.

The governor then announced the resignation of Dan Wyant, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality director; began distributing bottled water to residents, and called in the National Guard for help; asked the White House to declare a federal state of emergency (which President Obama did on Jan. 16); and has made an effort to become more transparent about the state’s response.

By Andrew Jameson / CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

State and local officials had been telling residents that their water was safe to drink since 2014 even though they had evidence to support the contrary.

“No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe,” Snyder said during his address.

The Crisis Builds

It was a disaster that started on April 25, 2014. In an effort to cut costs, the City of Flint switched its water supply from Detroit—which gets its water from Lake Huron—to the Flint River. The river water was more corrosive than the water from Lake Huron. As a result, water picked up lead more quickly as it passed through continuously corroding, older water service lines.

Just six months later, the local General Motors plant announced it would no longer use Flint water because it was corroding car parts, according to a timeline of events compiled by The New York Times. By early 2015, Detroit was offering to waive a $4 million reconnect fee if Flint officials wanted to turn their supply back to the Great Lakes.

The city’s emergency services manager declined even as the EPA was talking to state officials about the amount of lead found in a Flint resident’s water supply. By fall of last year, Wyant was denying that anything was wrong with the water, even though the EPA had told Flint officials to improve corrosion control and a Virginia Tech researcher confirmed that lead was coming out of the taps.

Previous reports indicate that the city and state knew the pH level had been trending downward since the end of 2014. That’s a sign the water was getting more acidic and likely to be more corrosive—causing the lead to travel with the water—reports said.

©iStock.com / deyangeorgiev

Previous reports indicate that the city and state knew the pH level had been trending downward since the end of 2014. That’s a sign the water was getting more acidic and likely to be more corrosive.

Shortly thereafter, doctors and Flint officials urged about 100,000 residents to stop drinking their water. As previously reported, Flint reconnected to Detroit water on Oct. 16, 2015.

Residents Discuss ‘Poison’

Flint resident Robin Simpson is among those who have spoken out angrily against what she considers to be an inadequate response from state and federal officials.

“It’s sad to me that Obama came yesterday to Detroit yesterday, but he didn’t show the right type of love,” Simpson told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re 65 miles from Detroit and they could have brought him here first, even just 15 minutes.”

Kathryn Brown told the daily newspaper that she does not know who to blame.

“I’ll tell you, we don’t’ even use that water for our cats,” Brown said. “It’s a really funky, black-ish, gray mess.”

As reported previously, several Flint families already have filed multiple lawsuits against local and state officials, both elected and appointed. Meanwhile, some residents are more concerned about what already may have happened to them—or their loved ones—as a result of drinking, using or bathing in the contaminated water.

Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security via Flickr / CC-BY ND-2.0

Some residents are concerned about what already may have happened to them—or their loved ones—as a result of drinking, using or bathing in the contaminated water.

“I think everybody is upset,” said Robert Jackson who showed a Free Press reporter his painful, blistery rash that Jackson said he believes came from drinking contaminated Flint water.

“To get a surprise like this and find out you’re drinking poison and washing up in it, it’s wrong.”

   

Tagged categories: Contaminants; Corrosion; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Government; Health & Safety; Lead; non-potable water; North America; potable water

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/25/2016, 8:40 AM)

If this information is accurate, Flint officials need to go to prison. Reckless endangerment for a starter. 100,000 counts.


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