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EPA Orders State Action on Flint Water Crisis

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On Thursday, the EPA ordered Michigan to take “immediate action to address serious and ongoing concerns” with Flint’s water.

According to the Detroit News, the agency invoked its authority to compel action when “an immediate and substantial endangerment exists” and “local authorities are inadequate to protect public health.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy addressed an accompanying letter to Gov. Snyder laying out the specific steps that need to be taken to get the city’s long running lead contamination problems under control. Some of the directives include:

  • Full implementation of EPA task force recommendations on sampling, with prompt and regular reporting to both the agency and the public.
  • Ensuring the city has all of the professional assistance necessary to operate its water system safely.
  • Ensuring the city has the “technical, managerial and financial capacity” to safely transition from its current water source, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept., to the newly formed Karegnondi Water Authority some time later this year.

The EPA’s actions also come on the same day that one of their top officials announced her resignation. The Detroit News says that Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, who oversaw Michigan and the rest of the Midwest, is resigning effective February 1. An EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toro, identified potential problems with Flint’s water last February, confirmed the suspicions in April and summarized the problem in a June internal memo. However, the EPA didn’t begin to address the issues until November. Hedman says she was seeking legal opinion as to whether or not the agency could force action. Critics have argued Hedman was trying to keep the memo in house and downplayed its significance.

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