Regional EPA Chief Resigns Over Flint Water Crisis

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Susan Hedman, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regional administrator responsible for Michigan, resigned Thursday night amid charges she suppressed information showing there were serious issues with Flint’s drinking water.

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has accepted given Susan’s strong interest in ensuring that EPA [R]egion 5’s focus remains solely on the restoration of Flint’s drinking water,” an EPA spokeswoman told reporters late Thursday.

“EPA is rife with incompetence and Region 5 is no exception,” Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote in a statement. “Mismanagement has plagued the region for far too long and Ms. Hedman’s resignation is way overdue. The lack of accountability throughout the EPA has allowed problems to fester and crises to explode. ”

EPA water expert Miguel Del Toral identified contamination problems with Flint’s drinking water last February and confirmed the suspicions in April. He authored an internal memo about the problem in June, according to documents obtained by Virginia Tech. The memo was also sent to Flint’s former mayor, Dwayne Walling, but Hedman downplayed Del Toral’s report and brushed aside concerns about high levels of lead in the city’s water.

“The preliminary draft report should not have been released outside the agency,” Hedman wrote to Walling in a July 1st email. “When the report has been revised and fully vetted by EPA management, the findings and recommendations will be shared with the city and DEQ will be responsible for following up with the city.”

The American Civil Liberties Union accused the EPA in October of attempting to suppress information about the crisis. Emails released last Wednesday show that the environmental agency spent months pointing fingers at local and state officials for the lead problem and downplaying concerns.

The corrosive nature of Flint’s drinking water is causing lead from pipes and pathogens to get into the town’s water supply, according to a study by Virginia Tech. Flint is currently dealing with an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a dangerous infection that usually spreads through a tainted water source.

Nearly two years ago, the state of Michigan decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to a local river. The city of Flint, however, applied the wrong standards for governing drinking water, resulting in a system that did not properly control corrosion. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder activated the National Guard last Tuesday to help distribute bottled water and filters to the 100,000 residents of Flint.

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