EPA announces next steps in Flint water crisis

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 22:43:51-05

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the next step to assist Flint during the city's water crisis, which included the resignation of the Region 5 Administrator.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke to Gov. Rick Snyder, sent him a letter and issued a Safe Drinking Water Act Emergency Order to ensure the state and city take actions to protect public health.

According to a release, the EPA determined that the state and the city responses to the drinking water crisis "have been inadequate to protect public health."

The Safe Drinking Water Act Emergency Order requires both Michigan and Flint to take "a series of immediate steps to address the drinking water contamination in Flint." It also requires necessary information to be provided to the public.

They will also implement sampling and analysis of lead levels in the water system, which the agency will publish n its website to provide the public with the most up-to-date information.

Also, EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman has offered her resignation effective Feb. 1 due the water crisis. McCarthy accepted the resignation.

McCarthy also sent a memo to all staff members instating a formal policy on elevation of critical health issues.

The EPA also said it will take these steps during the crisis:

  • EPA is committed to improving the public health protection provided by the Lead and Copper Rule and is actively considering revisions to the rule. EPA’s primary goal is to improve the effectiveness of the rule in reducing exposure to lead and copper from drinking water. To help shape an updated rule, EPA has engaged with a broad range of stakeholders and experts.  In December 2015, the agency received extensive recommendations from our National Drinking Water Advisory Council and from other concerned citizen groups.  The agency will carefully evaluate these recommendations, national experience in implementing the rule, and the experience in Flint to develop a proposed revision to the rule – which we expect to propose for comment in 2017.  Even as we develop proposed revisions, we will engage with states and other stakeholders on possible nearer-term steps that could strengthen implementation of the existing rule.
  • Earlier this week, EPA Office of Water staff met with stakeholders from Flint, MI to specifically discuss revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule. These stakeholders shared their feedback on issues including lead service line replacement, sampling protocols, and implementation and enforcement. EPA appreciated the opportunity to meet and hear their comments on improving the Lead and Copper Rule, particularly given the serious situation in Flint, Michigan.
  • Finally, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requested that EPA’s Office of Inspector General conduct a program evaluation of Region 5’s public water system supervision program under the Safe Drinking Water Act, specifically the implementation of its state oversight and operational responsibilities and performance. The agency is working to understand what it could have done to prevent this crisis in the City of Flint, and the Inspector General has agreed to conduct a thorough, independent look at the effectiveness of this program. This review will be beneficial in identifying the actions necessary to prevent a situation like Flint from ever being repeated. 

Read McCarthy's letter to Gov. Snyder below

EPA letter to Gov. Snyder