While it became increasingly clear that the Flint, Michigan water crisis is one of the largest leadership, environmental and human rights disasters in American history, I was bollixed about why federal Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 administrator Susan Hedman silenced EPA team member Miguel del Toral and hid the most damaging parts of Toral’s memo which detailed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s disregard for federal water safety protocols.
Put another way, what was Hedman’s motivation for providing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the MDEQ with aircover?
Two guesses came to mind – Hedman was protecting either a friendship or a larger reality that more Flints exist.
The Guardian cites a report from the American Water Works Association that says up to 96 million Americans could be drinking water with unsafe levels of lead and copper.
Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Yanna Lamrinidou told the Guardian that the practice of cities ignoring EPA regulations in order to hide lead and copper levels in water are not only common, but the EPA also hasn’t yet decided to address the issue:
“There is no way that Flint is a one-off,” she said.“There are many ways to game the system. In Flint, they went to test neighbourhoods where they knew didn’t have a problem. You can also flush the water to get rid of the lead. If you flush it before sampling, the problem will go away.
Dr. Lamrinidou sat on the EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC), which concluded its work on recommending new federal rules to reduce the risk of lead and copper poisoning in drinking water this past summer.
“The EPA has completely turned its gaze away from this. There is no robust oversight here, the only oversight is from the people getting hurt. Families who get hurt, such as in Flint, are the overseers. It’s an horrendous situation. The system is absolutely failing.”
Paul Schwartz, a water policy expert who worked with Lambrinidou on the NDWAC confirms my fears about Hedman:
“The industry’s own reports show that if large water utilities followed the EPA standard for sampling, they would routinely exceed the lead limit … The EPA has been in a very cosy relationship with the state regulators and the water utilities.”
Schwartz also thinks there are larger water troubles ahead:
“This potential risk of more Flint-like crises shouldn’t be taken lightly
“What we have is a recipe for a public health disaster that is much larger than what we’ve seen so far. It will take us years to get out of this situation.”
For the sake of background, Hedman, a President Obama appointee, resigned from her post last week. She blamed her attempted cover-up of Flint’s water troubles on “intra-agency rules.”
Hedman needs to be placed on the growing list of people who should be arrested for Flint’s crisis …
song currently stuck in my head: “luizão” – antonio adolfo, brazil & brazuka