The Environmental Protection Agency pushed back Tuesday against rumors the agency is closing an office some believe is responsible for the Flint water crisis.
“At this time, our discussions have not veered into the subject of an office closure,” Robert Kaplan, acting regional administrator, told reporters. “Anyone stating anything to the contrary is spreading false information. This is about results, not rumors.”
He was responding to rumors from Chicago on April 14 that EPA’s Region 5 is on the verge of being disbanded and folded into the Midwest region. Administrator Scott Pruitt is headed to the Chicago area this week to discuss ways of cleaning up the area’s Superfund site.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, used the rumor to trash climate skeptics in the Trump administration Saturday.
“Whether you believe in modern science and thus believe in climate change or not, the fact is the EPA exists to protect human health and the environment,” Emanuel said in a press statement addressing the rumors. He served as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
Emanuel did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Region 5 – which encompasses parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio and employ nearly 1,500 federal workers – was dealt body blows last year, when its former regional administrator, Susan Hedman, was forced resign over her handling of last year’s Flint water crisis.
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 the crisis. The defendants were seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages.
Pruitt is more interested in cleaning up the EPA’s Superfund program, which is intended to clean the most dangerous and polluted places in the U.S., has either been unable or unwilling to decontaminate many of the locations, allowing pollution to fester, a report from TheDCNF found last year.
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