The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a heated hearing yesterday that grilled officials on their lack of response to the Flint drinking water crisis—with Governor Snyder notably absent. Not surprisingly, testifying officials tossed blamed back and forth during the hours-long hearing in attempt to evade attempts to pin down responsibility. Despite the ricocheting blame, critics were steadfast in their accusation of a criminal cover-up.
Four were called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday: Joel Beauvais, the official in charge of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Keith Creagh, the new director of the Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ); Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech and lead researcher for the Flint Water Study, a research group that first identified high levels of lead in the water; and Lee-Anne Walters, a Flint resident and mother who helped expose Flint’s toxic water crisis.
Professor Edwards was the most vocal in the accusations of a cover-up, testifying that “the blame lies with these three or four employees who were actively misleading everyone” and that the EPA had been “aiding and abetting” the MDEQ in the cover-up of the Flint water crisis. However, Lee-Anne Walters, the Flint resident who was found to have extremely high lead levels in her tap water in early 2015, reportedly delivered the harshest testimony and said that her early appeals for help from officials were “dismissed.” She added that one of her young sons now has problems from lead poisoning.
While Beauvais and Creagh shifted blame when questioned about their agencies’ response efforts, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the chairman of the committee, was most critical of the EPA stating: “The crying shame here is, when they knew there was a problem, they should have told the public. They sat on (2015 testing) for almost a year…why don’t we fire the whole lot of them?” After the hearing he added: “I really do wonder if not only if people should be fired, but if some people should be put in jail.”
Governor Snyder was conspicuously absent from the hearing—he was not invited despite repeated calls to do so—nor were any of the city’s past emergency managers. Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley was not present either, after he refused a subpoena to testify.
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