WSW: Lack Of Communication And Urgency In EPA's Response To Flint

Aug 6, 2018

File photo of Flint residents and supporters wearing shirts that reads "Flint Lives Matter" as they wait outside the room where Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, Thursday, March 17, 2016, (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Credit Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press

A report finds poor communication and a lack of proper risk assessment in the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the Flint Water Crisis. Contributor to Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Bureau Gary Wilson says the report from the EPA’s Inspector General mainly focuses on the EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago.

The communication problems were between the Region 5 office in Chicago and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in Washington D.C. Wilson says the EPA maintains that the problem was that the Region 5 office failed to keep the main office informed. But Wilson says McCarthy continued defending the Region 5 office and its Administrator Susan Hedman right up until Hedman resigned in January of 2016.

Wilson says the report also shows that the EPA focused on collaboration with DEQ, rather than providing oversight. He says there’s nothing wrong with collaborating, but he says the EPA has oversight responsibility to ensure safe drinking water. Wilson says that led to missed opportunities to limit the damage done by the Flint water crisis.

There are several recommendations to address the problems outlined in the report. Wilson says he doesn’t know how much things will change at the EPA. He says the agency’s response on other issues such as algae in Lake Erie don’t give much reason for optimism about how the EPA will handle future crises.