Unearthed emails indicate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knew Flint’s water was tainted in mid-2015, yet was willing to allow citizens to drink it until at least 2016.
The program manager for EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in Michigan, Jennifer Crooks, said in the email that the EPA knew the city had not been adding corrosion controls to its water pipes since April 2014. Had the controls been administered, Flint citizens might have avoided the city’s lead-infused water.
“Since Flint has lead service lines, we understand some citizen-requested lead sampling is exceeding the Action Level, and the source of drinking water will be changing again in 2016, so to start a Corrosion Control Study now doesn’t make sense,” the EPA manager wrote.
She continued: “The idea to ask Flint to simply add phosphate may be premature; there are many other issues and factors that must be taken into account which would require a comprehensive look at the water quality and the system before any treatment recommendations can/should be made.”
Crooks’ email was sent several months after the EPA initially became aware of Flint’s water problem. Included in the treasure trove of emails, according to The Washington Examiner, is a message from EPA researcher Miguel Del Toral arguing that Flint, indeed, had a high level of lead in its water.
“The water director appears to be telling residents that the high lead from Ms. (LeAnne) Walters residence is from the internal plumbing and that a reporter she was talking to, as well as others, has confirmed that this is what residents are being told,” he wrote.
“Ms. Walters indicated that the line coming into the home appears to be galvanized pipe. If this is true, it is possible that her portion of the service line, from the home to the property line, is not lead and that the city-owned portion of the service line is the only source of lead here,” he added.
Government officials and agencies have continuously blamed each other for failing to leap into action once the city’s water was found to be tainted.
The rhetorical fists were flying, so to speak, during a congressional hearing last week that featured congressional members from both parties questioning the agencies and officials involved in handling the Flint affair.
Joel Beauvais, the EPA’s water chief, fingered state officials for blame for not listening to federal warnings about elevated-lead levels in the city’s water. He said the EPA urged Michigan’s state officials “to address the lack of corrosion control” but was brushed off.
“The delays in implementing the actions needed to treat the drinking water and in informing the public of ongoing health risks raise very serious concerns,” Beauvais told Congress.
The water in Flint is still unsafe for drinking.
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