An analysis of e-mails shows that despite red flags from its Chicago office, the EPA didn’t share the same level of concern over lead in the water — or at least wasn’t prepared to say so publicly.
WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Snyder says “multiple failures” by the federal government contributed to the crisis caused by high levels of lead found in Flint’s water while others, including U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, say it’s a “false equivalency” to suggest federal agencies bear as much blame as the state does.
Which is it? The answer is complicated.
The Free Press has analyzed thousands of pages of e-mails between the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to sort out which was more responsible for high levels of lead leaching into many Flint residents’ taps.
And while the record is clear that the city of Flint and the DEQ had primary responsibility for ensuring that the drinking water was safe — and that they moved forward with a switch to Flint River water in April 2014 without first applying corrosion control, which could have prevented lead from leaching out of old city pipes — it also appears that the EPA had its failings, too.
Flint Water Crisis
They include a labyrinthine set of regulations that allowed for differing interpretations of the 25-year-old federal Lead and Copper Rule, which should have clearly and succinctly required corrosion control before the switch. And they include a relationship with the EPA’s colleagues at the DEQ that may have shown too much deference before responding to circumstances even agency officials now say should have led to their doing “everything humanly possible to avoid this situation.”
There also was clear evidence that while one of its managers in Chicago, Miguel Del Toral, was waving a red flag about the potential dangers in Flint a year ago, the EPA didn’t share the same level of concern — or at least wasn’t prepared to say so publicly. And rather than engage in an open battle over federal rules, it appealed to its lawyers for a legal opinion, which would take months to complete.
At least one person familiar with the situation in Flint, who spoke to the Free Press anonymously because investigations are ongoing, said the EPA didn’t move to try to legally force the state to act because by last April, when the agency finally learned the DEQ hadn’t required corrosion control treatment in Flint, it believed that would happen more quickly if the state were allowed to complete its year-long process for determining if it was necessary.
By the time that happened and the state required Flint to take action, four more months had passed. And before Flint would institute corrosion controls — or the EPA finally delivered a legal opinion backing up Del Toral’s original contention that corrosion controls were required in the first place — dozens of homes would show indications of high lead levels, a significant increase in the number of children with lead in their blood streams would be detected and health officials would note a rise in Legionnaires’ disease cases possibly linked to the water.
State officials have borne the brunt of the blame, with a task force appointed by Snyder declaring in December that the DEQ took an “overly legalistic” approach toward complying with the rules rather than focusing on public safety. But in recent weeks, Snyder and others also have been bolder — if not specific — about the federal role in responding.
Under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA can take emergency action upon receiving any information that a contaminant is in or may foul drinking water. In the Flint case, an emergency order taking over testing from the state wasn’t issued until January, 11 months after Del Toral raised the red flag in Chicago.
Flint Water Crisis
The EPA has maintained that it operated “within the framework of the law to repeatedly and urgently communicate the steps the state needed to take to properly treat Flint’s water” and that any delay was Michigan’s. And there seems to be little question in the industry, according to David Cornwell, president of a Virginia-based engineering firm, that corrosion control should be instituted upfront whenever a new water system comes on line or swaps sources.
Why the state and Flint decided otherwise is still something of a mystery.
“For the most part, they (the EPA) expect the state to enforce the rules,” he said. “They can’t be everywhere.”
But there’s also no question that the trail of e-mails between the two show a much-deeper story that raises questions still to be explored in congressional hearings and ongoing investigations about the EPA’s response.
And there is no question that even the EPA is searching for answers.
Called before a congressional panel this month, Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais was asked by U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., what the EPA could have done to correct the problem in Flint “in a timely and sufficient manner.”
“That’s an excellent question, and I think that’s exactly what we need to take a look at right now,” he answered.
How the Flint crisis began
Feb. 25, 2015: EPA Region 5 in Chicago receives a call from Flint resident LeeAnne Walters, regarding high levels of lead discovered in her tap water. The week before, the city tested her water after her child develops skin rashes over his body after bathing. Lead levels are recorded at 104 parts per billion — nearly seven times the federal action limit.
Analysis: Flint’s switch to using the Flint River as its water source in April 2014 had already been a problem by this point, with the EPA and the state aware of multiple violations of national drinking water regulations. Walters’ call, however, appears to be the first potential indication to EPA’s Chicago office of any issues involving lead in Flint.
Feb. 26: Jennifer Crooks, Region 5’s Michigan program manager in the Drinking Water Branch, e-mails Stephen Busch, the Lansing district coordinator in Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, and Mike Prysby, the DEQ’s district engineer, to notify them of the tests done by Flint’s Michael Glasgow at Walters’ home, saying “WOW!!!! Did he find the LEAD! 104 ppb. She has 2 children under the age of 3… Big worries here.” Crooks says this adds to concerns she had raised with Busch that “different chemistry water is leaching out contaminants from the insides of … the pipes.” Crooks copies Region 5 Ground Water and Drinking Water Branch Chief Tom Poy and Regulations Manager Miguel Del Toral, an expert on lead and corrosion control.
Prysby responds to Crooks that Flint has been found within the federal action limit for lead — calculated by the lower limit of the top 10% of homes sampled, though that did not include Walters’ home — of 15 ppb at the end of 2014, but adds that Flint still “needs to take further action to help address Ms. Walter’s concern.” In an internal exchange at the DEQ later that morning, Busch writes to MDEQ Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Chief Liane Shekter Smith and Field Operations Chief Richard Benzie that Flint “is meeting” federal rules for action on lead and he’s not ”sure why region 5 sees this one sample as such a big deal.”
Crooks writes back to Prysby, Busch and others that day saying Del Toral “was wondering if Flint is feeding Phosphates” to prevent corrosion and control lead from leaching from old service lines in the city — a key question, since Flint’s previous source of water, from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, came with corrosion treatment to protect those pipes already in it. Crooks goes on to say, citing Del Toral, “Flint must have …. Corrosion Control Treatment.”
Analysis: This exchange marks the first between the EPA and the state DEQ over the question of lead in Flint and whether corrosion control treatment was required prior to the city’s switch to water from the Flint River. The EPA has oversight responsibility for enforcing the federal Lead and Copper Rule — and the ability to issue compliance orders under the Safe Drinking Water Act — and the DEQ is the main agency responsible for ensuring that local water systems comply with the regulations. At this point, however, there is no indication from the state that Flint is not using corrosion control.
Arguing over the rules
Feb. 27: EPA Regulations Manager Del Toral writes again both to people at Region 5 and at the DEQ asking about corrosion control and noting that Flint is required to have it under the Lead and Copper Rule, a complicated set of regulations for utilities to measure lead levels in tap water that requires, under certain conditions, water to be treated or lead lines to be replaced. Busch, the Lansing district coordinator in the DEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, writes back that Flint, which had a 90th-percentile lead level of 6 ppb in the most recent monitoring period, has “an Optimized Corrosion Control Program” and has never exceeded 15 ppb, which requires greater action. He repeats that Walters’ home is not part of the approved “sampling pool,” which is “focused on those sites with the greatest risk of lead leaching.”
Analysis: Busch maintains that corrosion control is being practiced in Flint without saying outright that the state, instead of requiring treatment for service lines at the time of Flint’s switch to the more corrosive water from the Flint River, interpreted the federal rule to allow first for two six-month monitoring periods to determine whether treatment is needed. Under this interpretation, however, treatment would be required if Flint could not demonstrate over two consecutive six-month periods that the 90th-percentile reading was below 5 ppb — not 15 ppb — for each.
March 19: EPA Region 5 personnel call the DEQ “expressing concern regarding the high lead levels found” in Walters’ home and receive a voicemail response claiming the lead levels may be from “sources in the homeowner’s plumbing,” which would make it her responsibility and not the city’s or the state’s. Walters has already told officials that the pipes in her home were plastic.
March 26: EPA Region 5 “learns that the local Health Department is looking at whether there is a potential uptick in cases of Legionella” in Genesee County, which includes Flint. Region 5 contacts its National Center for Environmental Assessment in Cincinnati to aid local efforts looking into the outbreak.
Analysis: This is the first mention of a possible connection with Legionnaires’ disease cases in the area, though Del Toral notes later — still months before the outbreak is made public — that disruption of the water mains could “mobilize” Legionella.
April 7: Michael Wright, with the EPA in Cincinnati, tells Suzanne Cupal, public health supervisor at the Genesee County Health Department, that he has spoken to Region 5 to “grease the skids” regarding getting the agency access to data regarding lead. He notes, however, that it “sounded like the one elevated Lead situation is being addressed … and they characterized it as a fairly unique situation.”
Analysis: While EPA Region 5 has and will continue to ask questions about the lead levels in Flint, this suggests at least some officials there may have agreed that it was not necessarily a concern beyond Walters’ home, or at least didn’t express that to Wright, who was being contacted about concerns of Legionella in Flint.
April 24-27: Responding to an e-mail from Del Toral, Patrick Cook, in the DEQ’s Community Drinking Water Unit, tells him and others at Region 5 for what appears to be the first time that “Flint is not currently practicing corrosion control treatment” in Flint and is instead waiting for results from two six-month monitoring periods to determine whether it’s necessary. Before sending this e-mail April 24, Cook received an e-mail from Prysby explaining the program “as we discussed.” Busch, in internal DEQ e-mails, after Cook’s e-mail to Del Toral, explains the state’s reasoning, saying he believes requirements under the Lead and Copper Rule have been and continue to be met.
But during a back and forth over a couple of days, Del Toral spells out for Cook, as well for the EPA’s Tom Poy and Crooks, why corrosion control treatment is required, citing specific federal statutes and explaining that if Flint’s first round of testing showed a 90th-percentile level of 6 ppb, it can’t — by definition — demonstrate a level of under 5 ppb for two six-month periods. He writes, “Given the very high lead levels found at one home … I’m worried that the whole town may have much higher lead levels than the compliance results indicated.”
Privately, the DEQ’s Busch, Prysby and Cook discuss how to respond, with Busch saying Flint “technically” doesn’t have to “do any of this.” He also suggests the possibility of having Liane Shekter Smith or DEQ Director Dan Wyant call EPA Chicago to rein in Del Toral.
April 27-28: Del Toral visits Walters’ residence, confirming that all of the plumbing inside the home is plastic. Numerous samples are taken and sent to Virginia Tech University for analysis. Lead levels range from 200 ppb to 13,200 ppb.
May 1: The DEQ’s Cook responds to Del Toral, after e-mails with Busch, Prysby and others, defending the DEQ’s program and saying no “formal decision” on corrosion control will be made until the city’s second round of monitoring is completed at the end of June, dismissing Del Toral’s contention.
Analysis: Even before going to test Walters’ home himself, Del Toral again makes clear that corrosion control is required but, for the first time, the DEQ outright rejects that, arguing that federal rules allow for monitoring first. Cook also makes clear, for the first time, the DEQ’s position that because Flint is to switch to another new water system in 2016, requiring “a study at the current time will be of little to no value.”
Much talk, little change
June 10: EPA Region 5 holds a semiannual call with Michigan’s DEQ. In a readout of the meeting, Crooks, Region 5’s Michigan program manager in the Drinking Water Branch, notes that there has been no corrosion control in Flint since the switch and that the city is finishing up its second monitoring period after which the “results will probably warrant a Corrosion Control Study to be conducted.” Del Toral believes lead levels are being “affected” by a lack of corrosion control, Crook’s notes say, but add that the “idea to ask Flint to simply add phosphate may be premature” and “to start a Corrosion Control Study now doesn’t make sense.” Busch, the Lansing district coordinator in the DEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, says the city is following federal requirements.
Analysis: There is no indication in the notes from the meeting that the EPA disagrees with the DEQ’s interpretation of the requirements, or its decision not to require corrosion control up this point.
June 24: Del Toral’s draft memorandum on the results of testing at Walters’ home is finished and, importantly, he shares it with Walters, who circulates it. The memo notes the city is no longer practicing corrosion control despite a requirement that large water systems “install and maintain” corrosion control, calling it “a major concern from a public health standpoint.” Del Toral also questions sample practices in Flint that call for preflushing lines before samples are taken; he calls for the EPA to “review the compliance status” of Flint. The report appears to be copied to DEQ officials as well as Virginia Tech water researcher Marc Edwards.
June 30: EPA Region 5 Water Division Director Tinka Hyde e-mails the DEQ’s Shekter Smith that “the Region is concerned about the lead situation in Flint,” but indicates that EPA management in Chicago “is still being briefed” on Flint. She sets up a meeting — for three weeks later — to discuss the situation. Hyde also notes Del Toral’s draft report and the fact that Del Toral provided it to Walters, which would not normally happen.
Analysis: Clearly, the EPA is aware at the highest levels in Chicago about the situation in Flint by this point and, presumably, the fact that Flint is no longer practicing corrosion control. But Hyde’s e-mail indicates a continuing willingness to try to work with, rather than aggressively question and act on, the state’s enforcement of the Lead and Copper Rule.
July 1: Responding to earlier calls by then-Flint Mayor Dayne Walling about how to respond to Del Toral’s report — which had been circulated to the ACLU, which is raising questions — the EPA’s top official in the Midwest, Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, tells him the draft should not have been released outside the agency and will be shared only after it “has been revised and fully vetted.” Hedman offers, however, the help of two EPA lead experts to work with Flint’s water advisory committee.
July 2: Walling writes back to Hedman thanking her, but also asking her to make a statement to the ACLU as to determinations yet to be made and “the City being in the right by following the guidance through the MDEQ.” Hedman declines, saying, “I’m not inclined to have any further communications with the ACLU representative.”
Analysis: At this point, there can be no doubt about Region 5’s full knowledge of the situation in Flint. In the months to come, Hedman’s response to Walling would be used to suggest the EPA’s Chicago office wasn’t moving aggressively enough on the findings and potential implications of lead levels found in the Walters’ home.
July 14: A Region 5 press officer, responding to a question from the ACLU’s Curt Guyette regarding the Del Toral draft memo and its assertion that Flint’s must-use corrosion control, says “Flint and other large drinking water systems are required to evaluate and optimize” corrosion control and that the DEQ determined that “Flint should follow the protocol for new systems which requires two new rounds of water sampling.” But it does not question or comment on that decision by the DEQ.
Also this day, the EPA’s Crooks contacts DEQ officials noting the upcoming meeting between Hyde and Shekter Smith and asks about the early lead results from the second monitoring period, adding, “Thank you for all your hard work … I know this has not been an easy problem to deal with for anyone.” The DEQ’s Busch responds that the state will provide the 90th percentile from the second period “when available.”
July 21: Before the call, Shekter Smith sends an e-mail to Hyde and others saying she would like to discuss “our (hopefully, mutual) understanding” of the time line for “next steps.” She adds that “while we (at DEQ) understand your concerns with the overall implementation of the lead and copper rule(s); we think it is appropriate for EPA to indicate in writing … your concurrence that the city is in compliance with the … rule as implemented in Michigan.” This is the second time an official in Michigan has asked Region 5 for an indication that it accepts the state protocol used in Flint — though none appears forthcoming.
In the meeting later, the DEQ reveals the results of the second round of tests in Flint, which show a 90th-percentile value of 11 ppb — under the 15 ppb action level, but clearly failing to demonstrate two periods of below 5 ppb. With this, the DEQ says it will send a letter to Flint telling the city to study and start corrosion control treatment “as soon as possible.”
Analysis: By this point, it’s clear that, leading up to the July 21 meeting, Region 5 had raised its concerns with DEQ about its enforcement of the Lead and Copper Rule and its decision not to require corrosion control at the time Flint switched water sources. But the EPA also hasn’t actively taken steps to force the issue, possibly figuring a quicker solution was to allow DEQ to reach that conclusion on its own after the results of the second round of monitoring, which it did. After it does so, however, the argument over the interpretation appears to be less urgent since the DEQ has said it will require Flint now to practice corrosion control.
Aug. 17: Nearly a month after the meeting with EPA Region 5, the Michigan DEQ sends a letter to Flint saying it must put corrosion control treatment in place within six months. The DEQ suggests Flint add phosphates and to do so “as soon as possible to address ongoing concerns … regarding lead levels with their premise plumbing systems.”
Aug. 31: Region 5 and DEQ officials discuss “Strategic Next Steps to Address Lead Corrosion Concerns.” Notes from the meeting indicate a major topic of discussion is a study of homes in Flint under way by Virginia Tech researcher Edwards. The study so far has indicated that of the 120 samples analyzed to date, 42% show lead over 5 ppb and 23% indicate levels over 15 ppb, suggestive of a serious lead problem. Speaking to the DEQ, the EPA’s Poy “emphasized” that Region 5 was not involved in Edwards’ work and raises questions about his methods.
The notes indicate that “everyone” at the meeting agrees Flint is in compliance with action level for lead, but that Edwards’ effort “is putting added pressure” on both agencies and that any delay for corrosion control treatment “would likely cause even higher levels of lead.” But the notes also indicate that Flint still has not yet accepted an offer of technical assistance from either the DEQ or EPA.
Sept. 3: The DEQ’s district engineer Prysby forwards to Poy information from Flint that it will be inviting EPA officials to join its technical advisory committee. That information, from Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft, also mentions that prior to the Flint water treatment plant’s redesign, its engineering firm and the DEQ discussed the need for corrosion controls and that it ”was determined that having more data was advisable” at the time because “chemicals used in this process … can be a ‘food’ for bacteria.”
Analysis: These e-mails indicate that even as the DEQ is telling Flint it needs corrosion control, Edwards’ research is showing that the problem may be — as Del Toral predicted — far more widespread than originally thought. Meanwhile, it seems the EPA wants to work with Flint moving forward but has still not taken direct action to put corrosion control in place.
Sept. 8: Researchers working with Edwards’ Flintwaterstudy.org report that out of 252 water samples taken in Flint, more than 100 — 40% of the total — show lead over 5 ppb and that the 90th-percentile level of homes tested is 25 ppb.
Sept. 11: Several state legislators ask DEQ head Wyant directly about concerns raised in the June Del Toral memo, including why it wasn’t shared with the public and the DEQ’s response. On the same day, the EPA’s Crooks sends a note to DEQ officials suggesting that even though the report had them listed as being copied in on it, “it was EPA’s request that the report not be sent” to them.
Analysis: This e-mail from Crooks has been read by some to suggest the DEQ did get the memo and was being told they could say they did not. However, it is possible that even though DEQ officials were listed to be copied on the draft memo, that it was not sent to them per the request of others at the EPA.
Also this day, the EPA’s Poy shares with DEQ officials a draft letter he is writing for Region 5 Administrator Hedman in response to U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee’s questions about the Del Toral memo. In it, it says Flint should have corrosion control as quickly as possible and that the EPA has offered technical assistance. It also notes the EPA is “evaluating” Flint’s compliance with federal rules, but does not suggest any immediate intervention.
Sept. 17: In a response to state legislators, the DEQ says it does not review or receive draft memos such as Del Toral’s. No mention is made of any disagreement with the EPA over corrosion control.
Sept. 20: Researcher Edwards sends to EPA officials an e-mail detailing multiple problems with the sampling pool of sites for lead in Flint, saying: “At best, their program is sending out sampling bottles at random,” when federal rules have requirements for selecting lead sampling sites and that the city does not know where all of its lead service lines are located. Region 5 Enforcement Team Leader Heather Shoven shares the e-mail the next day with other EPA officials; also that day, other EPA officials share it with DEQ officials.
Sept. 22: Edwards sends a follow-up e-mail to EPA officials that DEQ “will go to their grave insisting that Flint has met all Federal” standards and that they are telling people that the “EPA has said there is absolutely no corrosion problem in Flint water.”
Analysis: Edwards continues to ratchet up the pressure, but the focus has changed from one where the EPA is waiting for the DEQ to order corrosion control in Flint to one where there are increasing concerns over whether there is a larger, more widespread lead problem in Flint, and whether there is an adequate program in place to detect it. Still, neither the EPA nor DEQ immediately or directly acts on this.
Sept. 24: Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Hurley Medical Center release a study showing the number of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels jumped from 2.1% in the 20 months prior to Sept. 15, 2013, to 4% between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15, 2015, with the change even higher in some zip codes.
Analysis: Along with Virginia Tech researcher Edwards’ ongoing study, Hanna-Attisha’s work focuses attention on Flint and the issues involving lead in the water. At least one state legislator noted it in information sent to Region 5 and the EPA’s top administrator, Gina McCarthy, in Washington, D.C.
Sept. 25: The City of Flint issues a health advisory that residents flush pipes and use filters for water. It says an expedited program to install corrosion control is under way.
Sept. 27: EPA Region 5 chief Hedman contacts DEQ Director Wyant “to discuss the need for expedited implementation of corrosion control treatment (and) the importance of following appropriate testing protocols.” She urges the DEQ to enlist the state Department of Health and Human Services and discusses “options to provide bottled water/premixed formulas/filters until corrosion control is optimized.”
Analysis: At this point, it appears the EPA is fully engaged in the potential problem with Flint, with Hedman directly engaging Wyant on the issue of Flint.
Oct. 1: MDEQ’s Shekter Smith, in an e-mail, says the DEQ needs “to be clear that future sampling to determine exposure is not an admission that compliance sampling was done incorrectly” and adds that the EPA’s “sampling requirements” are the real problem. Also this day, there are indications inside the DEQ that its officials believe Hedman and the EPA support its earlier interpretation of the rules allowing for the two six-month monitoring periods before requiring corrosion control.
Analysis: While the EPA is pressing to get corrosion control treatment installed, this suggests DEQ is still concerned over its implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule and if there will be any fallout from that.
The same day, the state Department of Health and Human Services confirms the findings in Hanna-Attisha’s study and the Genesee County Board of Commissioners declares a public emergency, telling people not to drink water from the Flint River unless it has been tested and found safe or is adequately filtered.
Oct. 16: Flint switches back to using treated water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in what Gov. Rick Snyder calls “a first step” toward delivering safe water to Flint residents, since it will take time for corrosion controls to have an effect. On the same day, Hedman establishes a Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force to provide “technical expertise” through “regular conversations” with the DEQ and Flint.
Oct. 19: The DEQ’s Wyant acknowledges that drinking water staff “made a mistake” in its application of the Lead and Copper Rule. Wyant says the staff “employed a federal protocol it believed was appropriate, and it was not” in that the testing steps followed “would have been correct for a city less than 50,000 people, but not for a city of nearly 100,000.” He adds: “The issue in DEQ is experience and protocol with respect to corrosion control.” Snyder announces an independent advisory task force to review actions regarding Flint.
Analysis: With Wyant’s acknowledgement of mistakes, the DEQ takes the brunt of the blame for the high lead levels detected in Flint.
Nov. 3: In Washington, D.C., Peter Grevatt, director of the EPA’s national Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, issues a memo addressing the Flint situation, reflecting the long-awaited legal opinion on corrosion control. Saying situations like Flint’s “rarely” arise, he makes clear that large water systems and utilities are required to “ensure that appropriate corrosion control treatment is maintained at all times.” But he adds that the Lead and Copper Rule is murky and that there are “different possible interpretations,” which added to the confusion.
Nov. 4: The EPA releases the final Del Toral report. While noting there is no corrosion control in Flint, it does not mention any requirements to maintain it under the federal Lead and Copper Rule.
Nov. 10: EPA Region 5′s Hedman announces a full-scale audit of the DEQ’s drinking water program to determine whether Michigan has met its obligations to protect public water systems under federal law.
Analysis: Coming on the heels of Wyant’s acknowledgement and the Grevatt’s memo, this appears to be the first definitive oversight action in the matter by the EPA.
Nov. 19: The DEQ’s Busch writes EPA technical advisers in Flint, Darren Lytle and Mike Schock, asking for a “previously approved example” of a corrosion control evaluation done prior to the full-scale testing that can only be done once a water source is hooked up to a utility’s lines and taps are tested.
Analysis: While Busch frames this as a question about Flint’s future move to another water source in 2016, it continues to beg DEQ’s interpretation of the federal rules: How do you determine the correct amount of corrosion treatment necessary — given that lead levels are measured at residents’ taps — prior to the water source being sent into those homes? It’s unclear from records whether Lytle or Schock answered the question.
Nov. 25: The EPA Task Force releases its preliminary assessment, asking for information “that would allow EPA to determine the progress being made on corrosion control in the city,” including water quality and other data.
Dec. 9: Flint begins using orthophosphate in the water supply to control corrosion.
Dec. 15: New Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declares a state of emergency in the city, saying “lead levels remain well above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion in many homes. Residents are advised to continue using water filters while long term solutions are being developed.”
Dec. 29: Gov. Snyder’s task force reports back, laying “primary” blame for the lead situation in Flint on the DEQ for relying on a “minimalist” and “overly legalistic” approach to ensuring safe drinking water. Wyant resigns and is replaced by Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh.
Jan. 5, 2016: Snyder declares a state of emergency in Flint, later mobilizing the National Guard to assist with the distribution of bottled water and water filters and then asking the federal government to declare a major disaster.
Jan. 7: Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, says Flint residents should either use a lead filter on their drinking water taps or drink bottled water until further notice and calls for all Flint children under the age of 6 to be blood-tested for lead as soon as possible.
Jan. 16: President Barack Obama declares an emergency in Flint.
Jan. 19: Obama meets with Flint Mayor Weaver in Washington, D.C., and promises additional federal response.
Jan. 20: Visiting Detroit, Obama tells CBS News that the handling of the Flint water crisis is “inexcusable.”
Jan. 21: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calls Snyder saying there has been “inadequate transparency and accountability” with regard to Flint at the state and local level, and speaks of a “public health emergency that is now unfolding as a result of the failure to properly operate” Flint’s water system. She issues an emergency order, saying the EPA task force is still waiting for information requested in November, and that the agency will take over sampling and make other requirements under the law in Flint. McCarthy also sends a memo to all staff on “elevation of critical health issues.” Hedman resigns as Region 5 administrator, effective Feb. 1.
The EPA’s inspector general also announces the office will investigate the EPA’s handling of the water crisis in Flint.
Jan. 28: The EPA issues a statement saying it “worked within the framework of the law to repeatedly and urgently communicate the steps the state needed to take to properly treat Flint’s water. Those necessary actions were not taken as quickly as they should have been.”
Feb. 3: The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on Flint, with Edwards, the DEQ’s new chief Creagh and a deputy assistant administrator from the EPA, Joel Beauvais, who had no direct connection with Flint, testifying. Under questioning from the committee, Beauvais says the DEQ “resisted” the EPA’s calls for corrosion control but, when asked directly what the EPA could have done to force a solution, he responded, “I don’t want to speculate.”
Source: State of Michigan, EPA FOIA documents requested by the Guardian, DEQ FOIA documents requested by Marc Edwards, Free Press research
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