Norton Questioning Gets Snyder to Admit State Officials to Blame for Flint Water Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 18, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today at the third Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR) hearing examining the Flint lead-in-water crisis got Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to admit that the Flint Water Task Force, which he created last October, has already settled the question of who was responsible for the Flint water crisis: the state of Michigan, through its Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Norton has paid special attention to Flint, given the District of Columbia’s own lead-in-water crisis during the early 2000s.

Norton traveled to Flint earlier this month and said at the hearing that she was pleased to see many federal agencies on the ground there.

Norton emphasized at the hearing that she would not engage in the finger pointing that has characterized the Flint debate on Capitol Hill. Instead, in questioning Governor Snyder, Norton quoted extensively from the Flint Water Task Force’s December 2015 report, including its finding that “MDEQ is the government agency that has responsibility to ensure safe drinking water in Michigan. It failed in that responsibility.” Perhaps the most damning statement Norton offered from the governor’s task force was that the Snyder administration’s response to the concerns raised about drinking water amounted to “aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit those efforts and the individuals involved.” Norton gave Governor Snyder credit for creating an independent task force that would find that his administration “seems to have been more determined to discredit the work of others—who ultimately proved to be right—than to pursue its own oversight responsibility.” Norton said that the task force’s most serious finding, however, was that Michigan officials actually caused the poisoning of the water because they did not require corrosion control treatment to prevent lead leaching from pipes, as required by the federal Lead and Copper Rule, when the water source was switched to the Flint River. The task force concluded that the actions of Snyder administration officials “led directly to the contamination of the Flint water system.” In the face of Norton’s direct quotes from his own task force’s report, Governor Snyder could not and did not dispute the task force’s findings that his administration is squarely to blame for the crisis. Norton said Governor Snyder’s testimony settles the question that it was state officials who were responsible for the crisis.

She said the Energy and Commerce Committee and the House of Representatives have addressed the issue of states being given too much deference for operations under their control by passing the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, which requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to notify residents when water samples show lead levels for the highest 10 percent of homes tested are above 15 parts per billion, if local agencies do not notify residents. Norton said that passage of that bill by the House demonstrates particularly why in the case of the irreversible damage that is done by lead contamination, the federal government must intervene.

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