EPA Says Flint’s Water Supply Is ‘Improving Overall’

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A senior Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official said Flint, Michigan’s lead-tainted water is “improving overall.”

EPA’s “consensus on the [water] system was it was improving overall,” Robert Kaplan, the EPA’s acting regional administrator, told The Flint Journal. “What was a crisis is now looking much like other cities.”

EPA’s statement seems to contradict those from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality last week that it won’t likely won’t be safe to drink Flint’s unfiltered water any time soon.

EPA’s top Midwest official, Susan Hedman, knew about the Flint, Michigan drinking water crisis of 2015 months before telling the public, according to reports by the The Detroit News.

Hedman elected not to publicize concerns of EPA’s water experts over Flint’s water quality or the water’s dangerous health implications. EPA water expert Miguel Del Toral identified potential contamination problems with Flint’s drinking water last February and confirmed the suspicions in April. Del Toral authored an internal memo about the problem in June, according to documents obtained by Virginia Tech.

“At that point, you do not just have smoke, you have a three-alarm fire and should respond immediately,” Dr. Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech researcher whose analysis helped uncover the lead contamination, told The Detroit News. “There was no sense of urgency at any of the relevant agencies, with the obvious exception of Miguel Del Toral, and he was silenced and discredited.”

Instead of acting on the memo, the EPA sought legal advice and quietly fought with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for at least six months about what should be done. Hedman became aware of the contamination issue in April, but sought legal advice until November instead of doing anything. Hedman resigned in January of last year as a result after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused her of attempting to keep the memo in-house and of downplaying its significance.

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 state of Michigan, however, applied the wrong standards governing drinking water, resulting in a system that did not properly control corrosion.

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