October 22, 2015

Citizens Groups Back EPA Probe of Flint Drinking Water Crisis

Thursday, October 23, 2015

Media Contacts:
     David Holtz, 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org

In a letter to the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today, the Ecology Center and Sierra Club today asked the EPA for a formal investigation into how the EPA and a state agency charged with drinking water safety handled Flint’s drinking water crisis. 

Today’s letter, citing a communication Wednesday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy from U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), asked McCarthy to conduct a full investigation into the causes of the water problem in Flint. Flint’s water crisis was triggered by lead contamination that documents appear to show went unaddressed since the city switched to the Flint River for drinking water in April, 2014.  The groups also joined Kildee is requesting a full review of EPA oversight of federal drinking water programs it delegated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“This is about accountability,” said David Holtz, Michigan Chapter Chair of Sierra Club.  “We need to know what the EPA knew about lead contamination in Flint and when it knew it and why the state agency charged with keeping drinking water safe failed to do that in Flint when it appears that it knew for months there was dangerous lead levels threatening public health.”

In their letter, Sierra Club and Ecology Center also asked the EPA to investigate why the wrong water treatment guidelines were used in Flint and what actions, if any, were taken by EPA to require proper corrosion controls.   The groups also asked if EPA has conducted any reviews of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of safe drinking water programs in Flint.

“Confidence in the safety of Michigan’s drinking water needs to be restored,” said Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center. “That can only come after we know exactly what happened in Flint, why it happened and what measures need to be taken to assure us it won’t happen again.”

Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Conservation Director, pointed to a track record at MDEQ of failing to protect the public health and environment that suggests only an outside investigation will result in getting the answers the public needs.

“We’ve seen too many times, whether it’s allowing dangerous levels of air pollution in Detroit, or permitting the import of radioactive fracking wastes into Michigan, where the MDEQ is failing in its central mission of protecting the public health and environment,”  said Woiwode.  “What  happened to Flint’s drinking water is one of the most serious public health disasters we’ve seen in Michigan.  Children’s health will be impacted for the rest of their lives because of what happened and the public deserves to know why.”

text of letter follows

October 22, 2015

Ms Gina McCarthy
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW
Washington, DC   20460

Administrator McCarthy:

We are writing to endorse the October 21 request by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct a thorough investigation into the causes of the government failure that resulted in unacceptable lead levels in Flint’s drinking water. 

We believe that only a full review will hold those accountable for decisions regarding proper enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).  This review should encompass the EPA’s oversight of state programs delegated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and MDEQ’s enforcement of the SDWA, LCR and other safe drinking water programs.

Moreover, we ask that an EPA review answer the following questions:
  • Was the EPA aware that the MDEQ was using the wrong guidelines under the LCR for a city of Flint’s population?
  • Did the EPA notify MDEQ that the city of Flint should add a corrosion control treatment to their drinking water following the switch to the Flint River? 
  • When did the EPA become aware that the city of Flint was using a lime softening agent as a CCT?
  • What actions di the EPA take once they learned MDEQ was not requiring the city of Flint to use a proper CCT?
  • Did EPA evaluate the testing guidelines that MDEQ was using in the city of Flint?
  • When did the EPA first become aware of the potential elevated lead levels in Flint’s water?
  • After becoming aware of the potential elevated levels of lea, was the EPA required to notify anyone?  If the EPA is not required to notify anyone, why not?
  • Since switching to the Flint River, as EPA verified the city of Flint’s compliance with the LCR themselves?
  • Has EPA reviewed MDEQ’s performance in regards to its delegated authority to enforce the LCR and other Safe Drinking Water Act regulations?  If not, why hasn’t this occurred?
We look forward to hearing from you on this important request.


David Holtz, Executive Committee Chair                Mike Garfield, Director                    
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter                                 Ecology Center

Anne Woiwode, Conservation Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter