Rep. Gosar: “EPA Negligent in Response to Flint Water Crisis”

Feb 3, 2016 Issues: Government Oversight and Regulatory Reform, Energy, Public Lands and Water

For Immediate Release

Date: February 3, 2016

Contact: Steven D. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after participating in a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing titled, “Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan” where the Congressman questioned Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais:

“Today, the EPA admitted to first discovering contaminations in Flint’s water system in the Spring of 2015. Shamefully, the EPA dismissed an internal memo from one of its own and failed to take any real action till January 2016. During that time, EPA Administrator Susan Hedman tried to dismiss the seriousness of this crisis stating that the memo was just a draft and that it should have never been released as the memo had not received final approval from the EPA hierarchy. Innocent children and families in Flint were exposed to unsafe levels of lead and copper in their water while the EPA was twiddling their thumbs and downplaying the severity of this contamination.  

“If the EPA was serious about making the Flint water crisis a priority, as it claims, why did EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy just visit Flint for the first time yesterday, the day before a Congressional oversight hearing? I find it despicable that McCarthy waited seven months after an EPA regulations manager first reported a very serious contamination to take this matter seriously. Her failure yesterday to take responsibility for the EPA’s negligence is absolutely shameful. Why has no one been fired or held accountable at the EPA for this incident? McCarthy’s actions continue a sickening trend by the EPA of hiding government incompetence and ducking accountability. Disgustingly, the EPA risked the health and safety of our citizens because they failed to take any real action for nearly seven months.


(Courtesy of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)
Prior to April 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan received its drinking water from the City of Detroit’s system. In the months following the switch, the Flint River water began testing high in chloride levels, which caused it to be highly corrosive. One serious effect of corrosion is that it causes water pipes made of lead to leach into the water. Furthermore, the water tested positive for disease-carrying bacteria.

Reports indicated that the EPA, which has oversight over state and local water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act, had known about contamination as early as June of 2015, detailed in an internal EPA memo. The EPA finally invoked its authority under the SDWA to intervene in the Flint water crisis on January 21, 2016.

EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman announced her resignation effective February 1, 2016 and the EPA Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the crisis. The Committee previously examined mismanagement at the EPA with hearings held April 30 and July 29 in 2015.

In an article published on January 20, 2016, National Review highlighted the hypocrisy of those blaming Republicans and state officials for the Flint water crisis stating, “In sum: The Democratic government of a Democratic city destroys that city’s finances so thoroughly that it must go into state receivership; a Democratic emergency manager signs off on a consensus plan to use a temporary water source; the municipal authorities in that Democratic city responsible for treating and monitoring drinking water fail to do their job; a state agency whose employees work under the tender attention of SEIU Local 517 fails to do its job overseeing the local authorities; Barack Obama’s EPA, having been informed about the issue, keeps mum.”