Environmental News

EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman Resigns Over Flint Water Crisis

Susan Hedman EPA
Credit: Ford School of Public Policy at U-Michigan via Flickr

Just a couple of days after the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admitted to responding too slowly to the Flint water crisis, region 5 administrator Susan Hedman–the EPA’s top Midwest official–has resigned, the federal agency announced on Thursday.

In a statement, the EPA indicated that Hedman had offered her resignation and that it had been accepted by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

 

Hedman’s departure, which is to take place in February, comes amid allegations that the EPA failed to act while it had knowledge of the temporary water supply’s lack of corrosion control.

The temporary water supply derived from the Flint River — which the city of Flint, Michigan switched to in 2014 in an attempt to save money while the city was under the financial management of the state — lacked the treatment controls necessary in order to prevent city pipes from leaching into it. As a result, the river’s waters were contaminated with lead at the time of the temporary swap. Subsequently, the city 75 miles north of Detroit found itself paying for water deemed unfit for human consumption.

Flint residents across two of the city’s zip codes exhibited elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Resident Leanne Walters, a mother who claims that her 5-year-old son developed a compromised immune system and speech issues, told CNN that there’s “no trust there anymore” and that those responsible need to “take responsibility” and “make this right with the people”.

They need to take responsibility for their actions, and they need to make this right with the people […] There is no trust there anymore.

The EPA indicated in a statement that it “has determined the State of Michigan and the City of Flint’s responses to the drinking water crisis in Flint have been inadequate to protect public health, there are serious, ongoing concerns with delays, lack of adequate transparency, and capacity to safely manage the drinking water system.”

EPA has determined the State of Michigan and the City of Flint’s responses to the drinking water crisis in Flint have been inadequate to protect public health, there are serious, ongoing concerns with delays, lack of adequate transparency, and capacity to safely manage the drinking water system.

The city of Flint, which is 56 percent African-American, has a population of approximately 100,000 residents — roughly 40 percent of whom find themselves in financial poverty.

On Wednesday, the Michigan House of Representatives approved the $28 million in emergency funding requested by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder — but according to critics, it could be too little too late.

In response to the contaminated water, several residents have reportedly filed a class-action lawsuit that aims to dismiss the city’s water bills as the water was not fit for its intended purpose. An attorney representing the residents, Trachelle Young, was quoted by CNN as having said that “the residents have been getting billed for water that they cannot use” and that such practice is unfair to the residents.

The water has not been fit for its intended purpose. Essentially, the residents have been getting billed for water that they cannot use […] We do not feel that that is a fair way to treat the residents.

McCarthy defended the EPA’s response to the water crisis on Monday, stating that the agency “did its job but clearly the outcome was not what anyone would have wanted,” Reuters reported.

On Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama designated Flint a federal emergency, however, he refused Gov. Snyder’s request to designate the city a disaster zone because of the incident’s man-made origins.

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