Quantcast
Health
Susan Hedman, administrator of EPA's Region 5 during the Flint water crisis, testifies before congress. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

EPA Watchdog Finds Agency Failed in Flint Water Crisis

A report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) internal watchdog organization published Thursday argued that the EPA needed to step up its monitoring of state drinking water in the aftermath of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, CBS reported.


The report, conducted by the EPA's Office of the Inspector General, found that EPA's Region 5 office, which oversees six Midwestern states including Michigan, made the crisis worse by failing to take advantage of its powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Mother Jones reported.

"While oversight authority is vital, its absence can contribute to a catastrophic situation," EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins said in a news release reported by CBS. "This report urges the EPA to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water programs now so that the agency can act quickly in times of emergency."

The Flint water crisis started when the city changed its water supply to the Flint River, which had highly corrosive water that leached lead from the pipes, contaminating the water that came out of residents' taps.

Before the water crisis had even begun, the EPA had reason to believe that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was not doing its job properly. In 2010, an EPA contractor found 10 SWDA requirements that the MDEQ was not following, CNN reported.

But Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman still relied on the MDEQ to act when the EPA's Midwest water division manager Miguel Del Toral told his supervisors that the Flint River water was not properly treated in 2015, Mother Jones reported.

Hedman has since resigned.

The EPA received a total of 87 citizen complaints over a year and a half before it issued an emergency order in January 2016. The report found the agency issued the order seven months after it would have had the "authority and sufficient information," according to CNN.

"We believe that this was predominantly a management issue at the regional level," Director for Water Program Evaluations at the EPA Office of the Inspector General Katie Butler told CNN. "The combination of pieces of information should have given them a hint that something serious was happening in Flint."

The report concludes with a series of recommendations including writing a clear document stating the responsibilities of regional EPA and Michigan state officials and developing a set escalation policy for EPA intervention in states in response to crises.

The report's call for greater EPA oversight comes at a time when the agency is rolling back regulations under the Trump administration, both by changing policy and by failing to act on public health issues.

In May, for example, the agency came under fire for working with the White House to hold back a government report on toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) polluting drinking water around the country.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke filled streets after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California on Dec. 6, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke

By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia

We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Hero Images / Getty Images

Study: Children Have Better Nutrition When They Live Near Forests

Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.

The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Navy torpedo bomber spraying DDT just above the trees in Goldendale, WA in 1962. USDA Forest Service

Maternal DDT Exposure Linked to Increased Autism Risk

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry Thursday found that mothers exposed to the banned pesticide DDT were nearly one-third more likely to have children who developed autism, Environmental Health News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Significant cupping of leaves from dicamba drift on non-Xtend soybeans planted next to Xtend beans in research plots at the Ashland Bottoms farm near Manhattan, KS. Dallas Peterson, K-State Research and Extension / CC BY 2.0

Top Seed Companies Urge EPA to Limit Dicamba

Two of the nation's largest independent seed sellers, Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place limits on the spraying of the drift-prone pesticide dicamba, Reuters reported.

This could potentially hurt Monsanto, which along with DowDupont and BASF SE, makes dicamba formulations to use on Monsanto's Xtend seeds that are genetically engineered to resist applications of the weedkiller. Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, as well as other companies, sell those seeds.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Baby son in high chair feeding father. Getty Images

Baby Food Tests Find 68 Percent Contain 'Worrisome' Levels of Heavy Metals

Testing published by Consumer Reports (CR) Thursday found "concerning levels" of toxic metals in popular U.S. baby and toddler food.

The consumer advocacy group tested 50 nationally-distributed, packaged foods designed for toddlers and babies for mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talks to journalists outside the White House West Wing before attending a Trump cabinet meeting on Aug. 16. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Zinke Announces Plan to Fight Wildfires With More Logging

The Trump administration announced a new plan Thursday to fight ongoing wildfires with more logging, and with no mention of additional funding or climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Wangan and Jagalingou cultural leader Adrian Burragubba visits Doongmabulla Springs in Australia. The Wangan and Jagalingou are fighting a proposed coal mine that would likely destroy the springs, which are sacred to the Indigenous Australian group. Wangan and Jagalingou

Indigenous Australians Take Fight Against Giant Coal Mine to the United Nations

By Noni Austin

For tens of thousands of years, the Wangan and Jagalingou people have lived in the flat arid lands of central Queensland, Australia. But now they are fighting for their very existence. Earlier this month, they took their fight to the United Nations after years of Australia's failure to protect their fundamental human rights.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Jones Gap State Park in Greenville County, South Carolina. Jason A G / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Victory for Clean Water: Court Reinstates Obama WOTUS Rule for 26 States

A federal judge invalidated the Trump administration's suspension of the Clean Water Rule, effectively reinstating the Obama-era regulation in 26 states.

The 2015 rule, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) defines which waters can be protected from pollution and destruction under the Clean Water Act. It protects large water bodies such as lakes and rivers, as well as small streams and wetlands.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!