If you thought the water crisis in Flint, Michigan was terrible, the health impacts from lead contamination for those living in Washington D.C. could dwarf the latest EPA fiasco in the Great Lakes region, according to Inside Sources. Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor, who was one of the key people who raised red flags over Flint’s water quality, said that he wasn’t surprised with the recent situation in Flint after what occurred in Washington D.C. in the early 2000s. Appearing before the House Oversight Committee, Edwards ripped into the Environmental Protection Agency for serial malfeasance starting in 2001. He also criticized former Midwest Region 5 administrator Susan Hedman for suggesting that EPA had nothing to do with creating Flint; they “had everything to do with creating Flint,” according to Edwards.
Asked Wednesday to compare the health emergency in Michigan and a similar, years-long crisis that unfolded in Washington beginning in 2000, Edwards said by email the long-term health impact of lead-tainted water in the nation’s capital will be “20-30 times worse” than what’s happened in Flint.
Contamination levels in D.C. peaked in 2004 at three times the levels seen in Flint, with 6.5 times as many people exposed for twice as long as in Michigan, Edwards told InsideSources, calling the Washington crisis — and the way it was handled by local and federal officials — “a nightmare.”
Edwards, a civil and environmental engineer, has been involved in water-quality issues throughout his career and before Flint was best known for bringing attention to lead contamination in the District after he began finding unusually high lead levels in area homes beginning in 2003.
He was one of the authors of a 2009 study that calculated as many as 42,000 District children were exposed to the contaminated water during the worst years of the crisis, 2000 to 2004, and are at risk of future health and behavioral problems linked to lead.
Appearing Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Edwards ripped the Environmental Protection Agency, testifying that the EPA’s handling of the Washington lead crisis created the conditions for Flint.
“EPA and other agencies caused a similar lead-and-water crisis in Washington, D.C., from 2001 to 2004 … they completely covered that up for six years, and wrote falsified scientific reports. And it created a climate in which anything goes across the United States, anything at all to cover up health harm from lead in drinking water.”
“I was not surprised when Flint occurred, I was expecting a Flint to occur,” Edwards told Republicans and Democrats on the committee.
The Oversight hearing comes amid lawsuits, several investigations and a huge public outcry over revelations that the more than 100,000 residents of Flint — including between 6,000 and 12,000 children — were exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water after the city switched its water supply to save money in 2014.
Hedman also testified before the House Oversight Committee, where chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) criticized her for a lackluster, even “laughable” response to the crisis. A recent email from her staffers also presented the EPA in an unfavorable light, showing them unwilling to “go out on a limb” for the city (via Detroit News):
In his opening statement, Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, upbraided Hedman for her management of the EPA’s Region 5 and quoted from an email among Region 5 staffers about Flint.
“We’ve included information on Flint’s financial practices, as we think Susan needs to be aware,” Debbie Baltazar, chief of the Region 5 Water Division’s State and Tribal Programs Branch, wrote in late September.
“Perhaps she already knows all this, but I’m not so sure Flint is the community we want to go out on a limb for. At least without a better understanding of where all that money went.”
Chaffetz told reporters, “They didn’t know if they wanted to take the time, effort or money to help the people of Flint. ... The person who responds next in the email says, ‘I concur.’ ”
Chaffetz slammed Hedman’s oversight of the Chicago-based Region 5, saying she missed multiple chances to address the water crisis and created a culture that allowed retaliation against whistle-blowers.
He called Hedman’s contention that the EPA responded as swiftly as it could have under the law “laughable.”
He also took aim at EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who is scheduled to testify Thursday, saying she continues to “shift blame” and accept “no culpability whatsoever.” The agency still has not produced all the Flint records the committee requested, he said.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that this isn't a Republican scandal.