Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said the agency is committed to protecting citizens against lead contamination during a trip to Chicago Wednesday
“Their concerns were heard loud and clear, and I am committed to ensuring that the EPA works with our federal, state and local partners to find solutions that protect the health and safety of East Chicago,” Pruitt said on a trip to a lead facility designated a Superfund clean-up site.
Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, mostly because of the agency’s climate regulation-heavy efforts. He said the government would shy away from addressing man-made global warming and instead refocus its efforts toward public health issues, such as water safety.
EPA is getting “back to the basics of protecting human health and the environment,” Pruitt said in a press statement on Wednesday. His visit comes amid rumors the EPA is considering scuttling the Region 5 office, which has been mired in scandals throughout the past year.
Flint citizens filed a lawsuit in January claiming the EPA’s Region 5 office failed to take the proper steps to ensure that state and local authorities were addressing last year’s water crisis. The defendants were seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages.
Michigan officials switched the small Eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes.
Pruitt awarded Michigan $100 million to help replace Flint’s badly eroded and damaged water infrastructure. Former President Barack Obama initially signed off on the funding, but money was not distributed to citizens until after Pruitt approved it.
Funding was provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 and enables the beleaguered city to replace its decaying lead water pipes. Michigan is providing the required 20 percent match of $20 million.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
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