Lawmakers Argue Over Who's to Blame for Flint Water Crisis at Congressional Hearing: 'This Is a Failing at Every Level'
"We all share the responsibility in the Flint water crisis, whether it's the city the state or the federal government. We all let the citizens of Flint down," Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said
A congressional committee investigating the Flint, Michigan, water crisis pressed state and federal officials Wednesday concerning the handling of the lead-contaminated water that has caused a nationwide outrage.
Since 2014, Flint residents have been living in fear of their tap water, which contains alarming levels of lead.
The hearing’s purpose was to “examine the ongoing situation in Flint, Michigan,” and to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in the town.
The room was filled with Flint residents eager to hear the first congressional testimony delivered on the public health crisis taking over their town – those who could not be in the hearing stood outside the building together in vigil.
House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who presented documents suggesting the EPA did not act quickly enough, was particularly critical of the government’s ineptitudes in addressing and fixing the dangerously high levels of lead in Flint’s tap water.
“I’m disappointed in the response at the local level, at the state level and at the federal level,” he said. “This is a failing at every level.”
He added, “The public has a right to be outraged. Outrage doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
Chaffetz says he couldn’t begin to imagine the terror he would feel if his own children were consuming the contaminated water.
“We can’t let this happen. It never should have happened in the first place,” he said.
At the hearing, which began at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Chaffetz informed the room about a pair of subpoenas for two “uncooperative” officials – the former Midwest EPA regional administrator, Susan Hedman, and Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley.
Earley’s lawyer declined to accept the subpoena, claiming his client needed more time to prepare, reported CNN.
“We’re calling on the U.S. Marshals to hunt him down and give him that subpoena,” said Chaffetz in response.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, then challenged Chaffetz for not calling on who he claimed is “the most critical witness of all” – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
“Obviously, Gov. Snyder should have to answer for his decisions,” Rep. Elijah Cummings said. “We want answers from everybody, from the EPA straight on down to the local officials.”
“We need to determine how children in the United States of America, in the year 2016, have been exposed to drinking water poisoned by lead,” Cummings continued. “And not by accident. By the actions of their own government.”
Gov. Snyder has responded that he would consider testifying if called upon, reports MLive.com.
“The first thing is I haven’t even been invited to testify. So if that comes about then I’ll seriously look at that issue because I appreciate them looking into the topic, particularly the EPA’s role in all of this,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.
Rep. Dan Kildee told the investigative committee that the state of Michigan is at fault for the public health crisis.
“There’s an effort to create false equivalency of responsibility,” said Kildee. “It was the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality telling the EPA they had this thing under control, that they were using corrosion control in Flint, when they were not.”
He then urged the committee to “make things right for the people of Flint,” by fixing the infrastructure and providing medical care and assistance for the city’s children.
“We need the pipes fixed in Flint. In fact, the governor should write a check tomorrow for the $60 million that the mayor asked for,” he said Wednesday.
On Jan. 20, Snyder apologized to the residents of Flint for the way he handed the water crisis. Snyder then promised to seek $28 million in state funds to provide Flint residents with bottled water and filters, health care for children in the city and improvements to the city s infrastructure. On Wednesday, he propose an additional $30 million in state funding to help Flint residents pay their water bills.
Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said “We all share the responsibility in the Flint water crisis, whether it’s the city the state or the federal government. We all let the citizens of Flint down. ”
Creagh says he cannot guarantee that the Flint, Michigan, water is safe to drink at this time.
Chaffetz suggested there would be more hearings to follow.