Two busloads of Flint residents left Michigan last evening headed for Washington, D.C. to attend the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee public hearing on the Flint water crisis, being held Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.
The man-made issue of contaminated and lead-laced water in Flint has also gained the attention of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office told the Detroit Free Press that federal prosecutors are “working with a multi-agency investigation team on the Flint water contamination matter, including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, EPA’s office of inspector general, and EPA’s criminal investigation division.” (Detroit Free Press)
This disclosure follows a Jan. 5, 2016 announcement by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade’s office that it would be assisting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the investigation of the history and details of the Flint water situation. There was no indication at that time whether the investigation would be of a civil or criminal nature.
However, the EPA’s solitary involvement in the investigation was called into question both because of the agency’s conduct regarding Flint and the water debacle and due to the resignation of the EPA regional director for the Flint area who worked through the 2-year period in question.
The Feb. 1, 2016 statement from the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office makes clear that the investigation into the Flint water crisis includes the possibility of criminal liability. The inclusion of more than one agency in the investigation should address the concerns that the one agency that had been involved in the 2-year-long Flint water situation will not be solely responsible for conducting the investigation.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee met today in televised hearing investigating the elevated levels of lead in the drinking water supplied by the city of Flint for two years after switching the city’s long-time water source, Lake Huron, via a Detroit supplier, to taking water from the Flint River, a cost-saving measure put in place by a state-appointed official, Darnell Early.
Early was absent from today’s hearing. Early’s attorneys said that the official had not received the subpoena in time for him to travel to Washington for the hearing. Also, the attorneys related, Early is dealing with another crisis at this time, that of the Detroit public schools and their deteriorated condition. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, said he will ask U.S. Marshals to find him in order to make him testify.
Marc Edwards, a key figure in uncovering the water problems in the water supply after a concerned Flint mother, Lee Anne Edwards, contacted him. Edwards, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech, told the Oversight Committee, “If it’s not criminal, I don’t know what is,” referring to both the misconduct of Flint officials who neglected to follow federal mandates of using anti-corrosives in the treatment of water from the Flint River and the EPA complicit in covering that information up – all the while the people of Flint continued to drink contaminated water. (NBCNews)
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