Recap: House Oversight Committee's Flint water crisis hearing

WASHINGTON - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the Flint drinking water situation and the EPA's administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint.

State and federal environmental official were questioned at length about their agencies' response efforts. 

State officials "relied on technical compliance (with the law) instead of assuring safe drinking water," said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

He called that a mistake. But state officials are not the only ones who made mistakes in Flint, Creagh said. All levels of government deserve blame in the Flint crisis, he said.

Joel Beauvais, head of the EPA's waster office, faced some of the toughest questioning from members of Congress.

"A large public water system switching from purchasing treated water to using an untreated water source is highly unusual," said Beauvais. "Under federal regulations, the city (of Flint) was required to obtain prior approval of the switch from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). MDEQ advised the city of Flint that corrosion control treatment was not necessary. Failure to implement such treatment resulted in leaching of lead into the city's drinking water."

Beauvais said the EPA urged the MDEQ address the lack of corrosion control. 

"But (the EPA) encountered resistance," he said. 

Members of Congress questioned the EPA's response efforts and timeline. 

Dr. Marc Edwards, a water expert and professor from Virginia Tech, has been hired by the mayor of Flint to oversee all water testing. He also testified before the oversight committee on Wednesday. When asked if he believed criminal activity was committed by state and federal environmental officials, Edwards said:

"If it's not criminal, I don't know what is."

Meanwhile, Detroit schools emergency manager Darnell Earley, who was state-appointed emergency manager for Flint when its water source was switched, had been asked to testify at Wednesday's hearing but declined. The oversight committee issued a subpoena to Earley on Tuesday, but his lawyer refused service, a committee staffer said.

U.S. Marshals have been ordered to serve Earley the subpoena.

 

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