Six years after the Flint water crisis made national headlines, EPA and Michigan remain
in the drinking water spotlight
While the USEPA was grabbing headlines recently in the Great Lakes region with the announcement of the $1 billion windfall it was bestowing on the region, the EPA’s internal watchdog was taking a look back.
The Inspector General’s office announced it will investigate EPA’s role in the Benton Harbor lead in the drinking water crisis from last summer and beyond. The crisis where Michigan’s Department of Environment of Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) slow-walked taking action to notify citizens about elevated lead levels in drinking water, according to citizens and activists.
Slow-walked to the point that a coalition formed and petitioned the EPA to use its emergency authority to intervene. That’s similar to how EPA had to intervene in Flint
In a letter to Radhika Fox, the administrator for water and Debra Shore, the Great Lakes region administrator with responsibility for Michigan, the IG said it would be looking at the agency’s “elevation policy.”
The elevation policy was a product of the Flint water crisis where the IG’s office was critical of the agency for failing to elevate the issue up the chain of command.
In the Flint crisis, regional administrator Susan Hedman resigned under pressure for her handling of the issue.
The state of Michigan recently settled a $600 million citizen suit brought by Flint citizens. A similar negligence suit against the EPA is still pending in federal court.
The Flint report cited “management weaknesses” that delayed the EPA response on Flint.
IG investigations take time, then more time to be written and released so don’t expect anything soon. But just the fact that it’s looking at the Benton Harbor crisis speaks volumes.
It’s Flint redux.
Economically disadvantaged Black community struggles to maintain a deteriorating water system. Citizens and activists, some veterans of the Flint crisis, seek help from the responsible state agency then appeal to the EPA for an intervention.
Did Michigan and the EPA not learn anything from Flint? I suspect the Inspector General will have an opinion.
Chicago-based environmental journalist