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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Did A 2010 Report Send An Early Warning Sign About Water Safety?

Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Commons

Five years before the drinking water crisis in Flint came to light, there were warnings about problems in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 

Bridge, the online news service of the Center for Michigan, details the issues spelled out in a federal audit in the story Signs of Trouble at MDEQ Years Before Flint Lead Crisis. Ted Roelofs wrote the story, and spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans.

Roelofs says the 2010 audit showed the strain that budget cuts put on the department, including the drinking water program. He says it also found the state’s lead testing procedures were not meeting federal standards.

There is no “dotted line” that leads from the audit right to the crisis of lead contamination in Flint, according to Roelofs. But he says it’s another indication that the agency was not “up to snuff” when it came to monitoring the drinking water in Michigan. 

Interview with Ted Roelofs - web version

Roelofs says the report shows the problems with one of the most basic public services, clean drinking water. Roelofs says while the findings of the report are troubling,

“the astonishing failures that followed in how the water of Flint was being managed and overseen by MDEQ is mind-boggling.”

he Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was offered a chance to comment, but Roelofs says they did not respond directly to the finding of the audit. He says they issued a blanket statement about working to ensure water quality in the future.

Roelofs says if anything good could come out of the lead contamination of water in Flint, it would be to raise consciousness throughout the country about safe drinking water. He says the first job of state and federal officials should be to make sure water is safe. Roelofs says it shouldn’t be too calm public fears about a problem that has been found.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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