Commentary: EPA Office of Water weighs in on MDEQ’s illegal actions in Flint, fulfills MDEQ prophecy

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally broke their silence on the Flint tragedy two weeks ago, when it quietly released a memo answering the simple question: “Was MDEQ wrong, when it tried to leave Flint’s children completely unprotected from lead in water hazards for close to two years?”

As demonstrated by e-mails from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, MDEQ did not want to be bothered with installing corrosion control in Flint before the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline came online in 2016. Even after MDEQ realized Flint children were being lead poisoned from the tap water in early 2015 and were told by EPA their plans were illegal, they worked doggedly to do nothing at all. A month ago MDEQ admitted it had made mistakes.

But the EPA Office of Water memo now bails out MDEQ on their actions in Flint. According to EPA, MDEQ cannot really be blamed because “….there are differing possible interpretations of the LCR…which may have led to some uncertainty..” in what the law requires. This logically builds on EPA’s earlier assertions that sorting out accountability for Flint’s lead poisoned children is a “relatively complex” problem. That’s right. Figuring out who is responsible for the health and economic devastation resulting from the lack of corrosion control in Flint is complicated. And even if normal people cannot see it that way, EPA will be working overtime to make it complicated.

The EPA Office of Water memo also fulfilled the prophecy made by MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel to National Public Radio on Sep 29, who said that EPA’s final word on the corrosion control issue “not yet released — would tell a much different story” than did the 2015 report by Del Toral who directly cited the federal statute MDEQ was violating.

Not surprisingly, MDEQ continued the inter-agency lovefest, by issuing a statement lauding the EPA’s leadership role on the Flint saga.

We’ve appreciated the federal government’s support on the situation in Flint – including its announcement last week that the Lead and Copper rule speaks ambiguously on the corrosion control issue. Nobody wants to see a situation like Flint, and we look forward in working with our federal partners going forward because we share the goal of making sure the Flint situation is not repeated – in Michigan, or anywhere else.”

It pains us immensely to say this but: With environmental policemen like MDEQ and EPA looking out for our children, who needs environmental criminals?

Primary Author: Dr. Marc Edwards

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