The Environmental Protection Agency is outlining long-term concerns over the Flint water crisis in a letter send to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
In the letter from Administrator Gina McCarthy dated June 16, the EPA says that there has been great short-term progress in Flint, but says there are a number of challenges in the long-term goal to have safe and reliable drinking water.
McCarty says there are four principal issues that must be addressed in Flint to have long-term reliability with water in the city.
The first issue, according to McCarthy, is that the distribution system is oversized for current and projected water demand, which means water is residing in the pipes too long.
Another issue that McCarty brings up is the water treatment plant is not adequately staffed, operated or administered for safe drinking water to be delivered reliably for the future.
McCarthy also writes that Flint "needs a city administration that can provide stable, reliable and quick administrative support essential to a well-functioning drinking water system." Finally, McCarthy says the water system needs resources.
Read the entire letter below.
Weaver released this statement:
“The most recent letter from Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency confirms a lot of what we’ve been saying in Flint for months, if not longer. We not only need new pipes, we need new infrastructure. The water system in the City of Flint is old, antiquated and too large to adequately serve the city’s current population, which is much smaller than it was decades ago when the water system was put in place. Our city needs a complete infrastructure update to address these issues now and in the long term.
“As far as staff and capacity, we’re dealing with the aftermath of the state-appointed emergency manager’s effort to cut costs, which resulted in a drastic reduction in staff at the water plant and beyond. We know we need additional staff to help our hard working employees at the plant do their jobs and carry out the city’s growing efforts to provide clean, safe water to the residents of Flint. Our current employees are getting the job done and administration is actively working to recruit additional experienced and qualified people for several posted positions. But we also need additional resources to pay experienced, qualified people. That’s money that must come from the state.
"The water treatment staff for 50 years was not responsible for treating Flint’s water, since the water came directly from the Detroit drinking water system. In 2014, Mike Glasgow informed the emergency manager, MDEQ and other state officials before the switch was made to the Flint River that staffing at the water plant wasn’t at the level it should be to deal with the new responsibilities. The switch was made anyway. While the state budget appears to give MDEQ money to beef up its staff, the City of Flint also needs state money to increase its water treatment staff.
“The situation with Flint’s water system isn’t the only place where state policies are restricting Flint’s abilities to recover from the water crisis. We have repeatedly seen revenue-sharing payments for Flint and other municipalities that are required by state law slashed by policymakers in Lansing, who also have limited the ability of the city to find other sources of revenue to pay for essential city services. This whole approach needs to change so that Flint doesn’t repeatedly find itself understaffed, underfunded and struggling to meet the needs of our residents and businesses.
“I was glad to see Gina McCarty say the City of Flint needs support from the state when it comes to water rates. This is something Flint residents have been saying for years. Flint continues to have one of the highest water rates in the country, yet the water still isn’t safe to drink without a filter.
“Flint city officials recognize the challenges and possibilities identified by the EPA. The fact that EPA has been in Flint since January yet only took action to identify the systems needed in late May attest to the fact that all government organizations, large and small, have shortcomings. However, my administration is committed to making sure the city recovers from this crisis and doing what is best for the citizens of Flint. Our biggest challenge is a lack of financial resources. I hope our state and federal leaders take notice and see this most recent letter from the EPA as a confirmation for what we’ve been calling for since I was elected. This water crisis and the resources needed to fix it are much bigger than the City of Flint. We did not create this mess, and the burden to make things right should not be ours alone.”