As the water crisis stemming from lead contamination continues in Flint, Michigan, the head of the Midwest region of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tendered her resignation. Susan Hedman will leave the agency effective February 1, making her the second official to step down in the aftermath of a public health crisis impacting more than 100,000 residents, including over 25,000 children.
Public officials at nearly every level are facing intense scrutiny under allegations that public health was knowingly compromised after the city of Flint switched its water source from Detroit’s municipality to the polluted Flint River in 2014. What began as a cost-saving measure escalated to a federal emergency after officials failed to take action to address high levels of lead in the city’s water. Hedman’s resignation was announced Thursday in conjunction with the EPA’s issuance of an emergency order, declaring the initial response to the water crisis to be “inadequate to protect human health.” The state of Michigan and the city of Flint have been directed to respond immediately to the crisis in light of the EPA’s determination.
For Hedman’s part, she reportedly played down a memo by an EPA employee informing her of the water’s high levels of lead. Hedman initially told Flint and Michigan administrators it was only a draft report, which was untrue.
A federal investigation into city and state government response to the crisis is ongoing. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other officials are expected to testify at a congressional panel in February. Meanwhile, aid organizations from the state and federal level continue to provide bottle water and water filters to area residents due to continued lead contamination from corroded pipes. Even though the city has already reconnected to Detroit’s water system, expensive repairs will be necessary to make Flint’s water safe again.
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