Two Flint Officials Pass The Buck To Feds And State

(REUTERS/Rebecca Cook Files)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Two local Flint officials blamed the city’s led-tainted water on federal and state agencies Tuesday on the first day of a two-day congressional hearing discussing the city’s water crisis.

The city’s former mayor Dayne Walling, as well as Darnell Earley, who was appointed the emergency manager by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, directed much of the blame for the crisis toward state regulators and federal officials during a House oversight committee hearing..

The Flint scandal has drawn the ire of everyone — city residents, local officials and politicians of all stripes — and has also generated calls for Snyder to resign his position, even as the governor has repeatedly apologized for the state’s handling of the mess.

Tuesday’s hearing was replete with finger-pointing, with the formal regional director Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Susan Hedman arguing local officials were responsible for the led-poisoning, while Earley continually blaming the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for not notifying him about the city’s water problems sooner.

“Unthinkable errors all underscore that Flint’s crisis resulted from improper treatment of the water, an issue that fell squarely in the bailiwick of (the MDEQ) and EPA,” Earley said in the testimony released by the committee.

“We relied on the experts to verify that the water would not pose any threat to the community – the experts failed all of us,” he said, referring to the EPA and MDEQ.

The switch from Detroit water to the Flint River occurred in 2014 under Earley’s direction. The city switched back in October after Earley vacated the emergency management position, though not in time to forestall the led leaching into Flint’s water. Corrosive controls were not administered to the water pipes carrying the river water to Flint homes.
Walling, for his part, pinned the blame on Snyder and Earley, saying they were both too concerned about cutting corners and slashing budgets.

Walling, Flint’s former mayor, said during his testimony: “The state’s focus on balancing the city’s books and choosing low cost over human consequences created more expensive public problems.”

Hedman flatly denied allegations the EPA did not do enough to handle the water crisis, telling the panel members at Tuesday’s hearing “the EPA had nothing to do with what happened in Flint.”

Marc Edwards, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech and whistle blower who helped initially publicize the led crisis, also testified at the hearing. He torched the EPA for what he called the agency’s wanton disregard for the children and people of Flint.

“Hedman says the EPA had nothing to do with Flint,” Edwards skeptically asked the panel. “The EPA had everything to do with Flint.”

The agency’s “willful blindness and unremorseful attitude toward the led-poisoning issue is sickening,” Edwards added.

“Had a landlord acted toward their tenants like the EPA has acted toward the citizens of Flint,” Edwards said, “the EPA would have acted quickly to sue them.”

He continued: “But I guess being a government agency means never having to say I’m sorry.”

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