A U.S. congressional panel grilled a former Environmental Protection Agency official Tuesday over her handling of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In April 2014, an unelected emergency manager appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder switched Flint’s water source to the corrosive Flint River. The river water ate away at the lead pipes, poisoning the drinking water. In June 2015, an internal report by an EPA scientist raised the alarm about high lead levels and about Flint’s lack of corrosion control. At Tuesday’s hearing, California Democratic Congressmember Ted Lieu asked former EPA official Susan Hedman why it took so long for the agency to warn residents.
Rep. Ted Lieu: “You knew, EPA knew in April, corrosive agents not done. In June, you were notified of that. And then you were given a report that said 'lots of lead in this drinking water.' And then nothing is done 'til December. There is no excuse for that. Someone needed to have yelled and screamed and said, ’Stop this! People are being poisoned.' Should have been done in at least July or August, maybe September, at least by October. That was so wrong. This was a crime of epic proportions that could have been prevented. I yield back.”
Susan Hedman resigned in January as head of the EPA regional office in charge of Michigan. Utah Republican Congressmember Jason Chaffetz asked her whether anyone at the agency had done anything wrong.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “Did anybody at the EPA do anything wrong?”
Susan Hedman: “Are you asking me the question if in—if I could do this all over again, is there something I would do”—
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “No, I’m asking you—you were in charge. Did anybody at the EPA do anything wrong?”
Susan Hedman: “I don’t think anyone at EPA did anything wrong, but I do believe we could have done more.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “Wow.”
Georgia Republican Congressmember Earl Carter joined the criticism of Susan Hedman, saying, “There’s a special place in hell for actions like this.” Also testifying at Tuesday’s hearing were Flint’s former emergency manager Darnell Earley and former Mayor Dayne Walling. On Thursday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are set to appear before the same committee. Click here to see our special report on Flint.