It was a long St. Patrick’s Day on Capitol Hill during the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the “Water Crisis” in Flint, Michigan. The House Oversight Committee is led by Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah. Rep. Chaffetz started the hearing with an opening statement criticizing federal officials handling of the case. The hearing started with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder including in his opening statement, “Let me be blunt. This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state and federal officials — we all failed the families of Flint.” Gov. Snyder testified along with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reported the Detroit Free Press. The Oversight Committee’s Ranking Member, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, called for Gov. Snyder to resign for his handling of the water crisis. St. Patrick’s Day also featured U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Health Brain Trust, who pointedly told Gov. Snyder, “Part of my mission (as chair of the CBC Health Brain Trust) is to look out for health care for under-served communities, low-income communities and communities of color. I have to tell you this really ‘reeks of environmental discrimination’ in my opinion.”
Rep. Kelly added, “I find it ironic that Michigan’s slogan is Pure Michigan.” The reference is to the events leading up to the water crisis.
Rep. Kelly said after the hearings about the Flint water crisis: “Today I had some serious questions for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his handling of the Flint, Michigan water crisis. This was an inexcusable failure and no family should suffer the tragedy of children afflicted with brain damage, learning disorders, and other preventable conditions brought on by consuming lead contaminated drinking water.”
Kelly added, “Government officials must be held accountable for their actions. We owe it to our communities to never allow convenient politics to triumph over concern for the people.”
For decades, the residents of Flint got its water from Detroit’s supply. But in 2014 the cash-strapped, largely African American city switched to a less costly – though more polluted – source, the Flint River. This was the result of an Emergency Manager taking over the city of Flint, at the order of Gov. Snyder. State government officials assured the EPA that the water was adequately treated to prevent lead leaching from corroding pipes, while telling city officials that corrosion control wasn’t necessary.
One year after the switch, with no corrosion control in place, Flint’s lead-loaded water had poisoned the population. Rep. Elijah Cummings squarely placed the blame for the poisoning of Flint on the state government, which ran the city through an un-elected emergency manager.
For his part, Ranking Democrat Rep Elijah Cummings said, “The governor’s fingerprints are all over this.” Rep Elijah Cummings said that if a corporate CEO had sold toys laced with lead that children put in their mouths, he would be “hauled up on criminal charges,” and the same should happen in the Snyder administration.
“What if a CEO ran a company that sold toys laced with lead that children put in their mouths,” Cummings asked near the opening of Thursday’s hearing.