As of Thursday, the people of Flint, Mich., have gone 1,569 days without a clean and stable water system in their city. The lead service line is in the process of being replaced, and the government keeps telling the city that its water is safer now—but residents remain skeptical. Through it all, city and state governments continue to bicker over who gets to tell whom what to do.
On May 31, Eric Oswald—Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division—sent a letter to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, putting her on notice that the state would be sending a proposed administrative consent order (ACO) that would require the city to correct 15 water system problems identified by the state in August 2017. At the time, the problems still had not been resolved, and Oswald asked Weaver to “develop realistic dates the city can achieve to bring your drinking-water system back into compliance.”
Weaver bristled at the idea of what she saw as an “unwarranted and unnecessary” intrusion of state oversight over her city’s water system. In June, she hit back with a letter of her own and asserted that she would not cooperate with it the proposed administrative consent order, which she described as “a deliberate and willful misuse of the DEQ’s authority for political purposes and not a good faith effort to address the issues faced by the city of Flint.” She also refused to sign the consent order.
Well now, the federal government has chimed in on the issue.
MLive reports that Linda Holst, acting director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Division, sent a letter to Weaver on Wednesday in which she said the agency “fully supports (the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s) primacy agency authority to issue an (administrative consent order) for all deficiencies the city has not corrected.”
“I appreciate the efforts that both sides have put into resolving the deficiencies identified in the sanitary survey,” Holst wrote. “The city has made and continues to make good faith efforts to resolve the identified issues.
I hope the city and state can resolve (this) issue, so the parties can focus on resolving the rest of the sanitary survey deficiencies.”
Weaver has not yet issued a comment on the EPA’s letter.
In the meantime, the residents of Flint still don’t have water they feel safe to drink.
And that is the most important issue here.