Poor management from federal, state and local governments resulted in a delayed response to solve the 2015 Flint water crisis in Michigan, an Environmental Protection Agency report issued Thursday concluded.
EPA’s Office of Inspector General’s report noted that several lapses in oversight contributed to a slow reaction time to address Flint’s lead-tainted water. The agency also offered nine recommendations to strengthen the EPA’s ability to prevent similar situations in the future.
“While oversight authority is vital, its absence can contribute to a catastrophic situation,” EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins wrote in a press statement announcing the report. “This report urges the EPA to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water programs now so that the agency can act quickly in times of emergency.”
The Flint water system did not adhere to two Lead and Copper Rule requirements, namely local agencies failed to develop and maintain an inventory of lead service lines needed for sampling, and they didn’t maintain corrosion control treatment after the water source switch, the inspector general’s office found.
The federal response was also delayed because the EPA did not establish clear roles, responsibilities and effective communication tools ahead of the crisis. (RELATED: It’s Been Two Years And Hillary Clinton’s Flint Water Program Is Still Missing In Action)
Flint citizens have been struggling for several years to bring back their city, which was once a thriving auto manufacturing hub. State officials and residents have also been unable to get the small, mostly black town’s water system up and running after lead contaminated its water supply. High levels of lead are believed to be a significant contributing factor to outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease in Flint.
Officials switched the small eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron in 2014 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. The lead leaching did not come to the fore until a pair of scientific studies showed significant levels of contamination were present in the water supply. A federal state of emergency was declared in January 2016.
Media have pilloried federal regulators and state politicians for failing to respond more quickly to the crisis. Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, for instance, defended cabinet members in June 2017 currently fighting off manslaughter charges for not notifying citizens of Flint’s corroded water in time to prevent two deaths related to the crisis. The crisis has resulted in several lawsuits.
Nearly 2,000 citizens of Flint sued the agency for overlooking the problem until it was too late. The EPA failed to take the proper steps to ensure state and local authorities were addressing the crisis, Flint citizens’ lawsuit claims. The defendants are seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages.
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