Flint, Michigan, debate continues in DC

By Olivia Rizzo
Staff Writer

It has been months since the news of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., first broke, where residents had been exposed to water tainted with lead, causing irreversible illness to some of the residents of the city. And although conditions are slowly mending in Flint, many citizens and local government officials have yet to feel that justice has been brought to their community.

There has been an effort to understand what led to the disastrous situation in Flint. Congress has been questioning the knowledge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local and state government officials to try and get to the bottom of how the situation in Flint got so out of hand.

According to ABC News, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has hosted several hearing in which they question top officials’ role in covering up how drastic the contamination was, which ended in several members of Congress calling for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and EPA Chief Gina McCarthy.

Gov. Snyder defends himself in Flint hearing. AP Photo
Gov. Snyder defends himself in Flint hearing. AP Photo

The hearings became heated as congressmen grilled the governor and EPA head. Democrats focused their anger on the Republican governor and other state officials, while Republicans on the panel placed blame on the EPA.

The most heated moments of the hearings came when Snyder and McCarthy tried to place blame on others.

“We just couldn’t get a straight answer anywhere. People don’t deserve that out of their government,” McCarthy said after being called to step down from her position by committee chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). “I will take responsibility for not pushing hard enough, but I will not take responsibility for causing this problem. It wasn’t the EPA at the helm when this happened.”

The issues in Flint began when the city’s water source was switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River, in order to cut costs. The water from the river was not treated properly for erosion and lead from old pipes seeped into the city’s water supply, causing a health crisis within the city.

Gov. Snyder maintained throughout the hearing that he was misled about the water crisis for more than a year, according to ABC News. He insisted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality told him water from the Flint River was safe and that he did not become aware that the city’s water had been contaminated until Thursday, Oct. 1.

“The governor’s fingerprints are all over this. It looks like almost everyone knew about this problem but you. You were missing in action. That’s not leadership,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the panel.

Although Snyder and McCarthy have apologized and have accepted partial blame for the health crisis in Flint, neither of them has stepped down from their positions despite the outrage and frustration expressed by members of Congress and the people of Flint.