tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN February 3, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm EST
>> having more questions but seeing my time has expired, i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. i remind the committee that we had a hearing here in july about region five, about susan hedman. we had three whistle-blowers saying that people were being retaliated against for bringing complaints before -- before that region. and it's so frustrating that that was not dealt with when it was brought up. it should have never happened in the first place, and it obviously continued because she just retired on monday. yes. >> very briefly, mr. chairman, back on that hearing in your regard in a bipartisan way we made it clear that we would not tolerate retaliation, nobody on these panels, either side would tolerate that. and it's been our policy, and so i think as we look at these depositions that the chairman is planning to do, we may want to
look to make sure that we get to the bottom of that. i know the a.g.'s looking at it. i note the fbi is looking at it but, you know, perhaps we might want to consider that. >> and i would concur and encourage people, if they feel retaliated against for telling the truth and exposing the reality of what happened, come talk to us. both sides of the aisle. there is no way we're going to stand for that. we're going to have your back. we're going to make sure the truth will get out there. you should not be retaliated. there are whistle-blower protections in place sharing information with congress that's vital for us doing our jobs. and, please, pass that -- pass that word along. we'll now recognize the gentle woman from michigan ms. lawrence for five minutes. >> thank you. mr. cray, on january 29th, ranking member cummings and myself sent to governor snyder a detailed document request.
as of this morning the committee has not received any response from the governor. since this request covers your agency, can you tell the committee what tens have been taken to collect these documents and when will we get them? >> i'm aware of the letter. i believe there's a february 11th date, and i'm aware of that the governor's office is reviewing that document. >> i have a question about this issue of primacy. can you explain in the state of michigan what exactly is the role of the michigan department of environmental quality? once advised by epa, which did happen in this situation, what is the responsibility, based on the state of michigan's law? >> so, the state of michigan has enacted corollary statutes that
mirror the safe drinking water act that allow us to enforce laws in the state of michigan. we have primacy for enforcing the lead and copper rule and the safe drinking water act. and as i said in my testimony, the u.s. epa sets the standards, oversees the programming, conducts yearly audits. >> with the law and your responsibility, you're now in the position, what failed in enacting the law, and can you explain to me why a response to epa on the february 26 advising the state of michigan that there was lead or high levels of corrosion in the flint water? >> it's the question of the day, and that's what many of the auditors and reviews will have is who made what decisions when.
and that's when i said we needed to have a thorough investigation. as i mentioned in my testimony, the city runs the plant. they certify that the samples are consistent with the lead and copper rule. we oversee that. and then we work with epa on standards and conversations. >> so, are you saying the city is responsible for not responding? because if i follow the information, it came from epa directly to the michigan department of environmental quality advising you about the flint water. >> if i could, i'd say it differently. we all share a responsibility in the flint water crisis, whether it's the city, the state or the federal government. we all let the citizens of flint down. and that's what the commitment is, is to make sure that we solve that problem. you heard dr. edwards talk about
the lead and copper rule. the citizens of flint should not have to worry about the lead and copper rule. they should have fresh safe drinking water. >> you're new in the position. and we have heard clearly there's some issues with epa. what are you doing in the state of michigan to respond to this? what are the improvements, and what are you doing? >> thank you for that question. so, first and foremost, as you know, there is epa's water force. i have weekly calls with bob kaplan who is the interim regional administrator for the epa. there's no difference on opinion on regulation and/or implementation. i meet weekly with mayor weaver and the water treatment facility operator to make sure we are, implementation. we have implemented the -- and have conversations.
i visited with miguel a couple times already since i've been there talking about the epa water task force to make sure that we get it right. it's a very complex issue to get it right. >> i want to be clear. when you say it's the question of the day. because when -- this is a response. the state deq is perplexed by edwards' results as it seems to be by the city's test result this group specializes in looking for high lead problems. and we keep saying it's the question of the day. has anyone been held accountable? >> yes. there's accountability throughout the system. as you know, there's been some changes at the deq. there's been suspensions at the deq. and everyone deserves due process. >> so, my question is, if it's the question of the day, you are obviously holding some people
accountable. you should know what happened. and it should move from being a question to actually documented. because how can you discipline someone or hold them accountable if you do not have clear information of failure of their job. >> i appreciate that question. and we do have clear standards. we have clear accountabilities. we have a clear path forward. we are working in conjunction with both the city, the state, and the federal government to resolve this so it does not happen again. >> i think i'm going to hear that a couple times today. i want to say thank you to miss walters. you being here today, your passion going above and beyond the amazing job you have as a parent and your civic commitment. i want to thank you. i saw you take some breaths during your testimony because
this is obviously more than just a testimony. this is your life and these are your children, so i just want to thank you for being here. >> thank the gentle woman. we'll now recognize the gentleman from michigan for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to the panel. it's outrageous that this sort of government-made catastrophe would happen anywhere in the united states. and i agree with my democratic colleagues that we need an independent, nonpartisan investigation. the state of michigan needs to provide comprehensive assistance to the people of flint. and the state has the resources. i can assure you that as a former state legislator. the state spends $33 million on the pure michigan ad campaign. yet has provided only $28 million to make sure that the people of flint have pure water. so, the state has the resources. the state needs to make it right.
i've never liked the emergency manager law. takes power away from the people of the community. it's disappointing that former emergency manage r early had hi attorney tell us when he received the subpoena for his attendance here that it borders on nonsensical to accept that subpoena to come here. what's nonsensical, what's disappointing is that one of the people who is probably most culpable for this situation won't take responsibility for it. and i think he needs to appear here. and i'd like to have some more people here, and it's unfortunate that we -- while this is an esteemed panel that we only have the four of you. so, my first question is for mr.
creagh. and ms. lawrence touched on this. what role does the michigan deq have in implementing and enforcing safe drinking water standards? i just want to get to the bottom of it. is it the primary role? >> yes. we have the primary role to oversee compliance with the safe drinking water act and lead and copper rule. >> what role does the michigan deq have in the process of bringing a water treatment plant back online? it's my understanding that the flint treatment plant was offline for a long period of time. >> actually the flint treatment plant has a long history. it was a primary source, i believe, before 1967. i think it's been in existence since 1903. i think it's been a backup. i think it's tested on a quarterly basis to assure it
meets safe drinking water standards so it has gone from a backup to a primary. actually state law does not require additional permits for that to occur in and of itself. >> what role did the michigan deq have in that process, bringing it back online? >> they would apply to us to get permits for modifications to the plant. >> and when a city decides to change its water source, how involved is the michigan deq? >> i think as it's been mentioned it's highly unusual in this country to go from one water source to another. and so the rigor should have been more when the water source changed. >> my next question is for professor edwards. we know that not enough phosphates were added to the water to make it less corrosive. what's the cost of treating the water with the appropriate amount of phosphates? >> when the switch was made
there was actually no phosphate added at all. there was no corrosion control. federal law was not followed. >> no phosphates at all? >> nothing. had they done the minimum allowable under the law which would have been to continue the phosphate dosing which would have been in detroit water, it would have cost $80 to $100 a day. >> do you know why or why do you think no phosphates were added? isn't that a normal step you take if you are running a facility? >> it's the law. you have to have a corrosion control plan, and that's why we have the law. this disaster would not have occurred if the phosphate had been added that includes the outbreak and the leaks in the plumbing system. in general corrosion control every dollar you spend on it you save $10.
but in flint's situation every dollar they spent on it they would have easily saved $1,000. so, my only explanation is that it probably did start innocently and in the chaos of the turnover and someone simply forgot to follow the law. >> and not including the phosphates is a problem regardless of the water source, whether it was the flint river or some other water source? >> well, you don't have to use phosphate. there are alternative approaches that one can use including ph and alkinity adjustment, but you have to protect your plant and your people. >> if you started sending the phosphates and other chemicals through the water to fix the problem, how long would it take? >> well, it's quite likely that right now even after a few months of phosphate dosinging that the coating has been
largely restored and if a federal approved lead and copper sampling was done today, there's a pretty good chance tat flint would pass, i can't say. but until they actually do that testing, we have to err on the side of caution and assume the water is not safe to drink. flint has never done a lead and copper testing according to federal regulations like many cities across the united states. the reason is they never did the first step that is required under the rule in 1987 which is to identify high-risk homes from which you have to sample. what's become clear in flint is they've -- they've never followed that first step and, therefore, frankly all their prior sampling results are invalid. >> thanks for your testimony. my time's expired. >> thank the gentleman. now recognize ms. norton from washington, d.c.. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i thank you for promptly convening this hearing. miss walters, there seems to be
only one hero in this episode, and it turns out to be a citizen. so on behalf of those of us on this panel, and i'm sure the citizens of flint, i can only thank you. in our case, it was "the washington post," and i should indicate what the point of my questions are. this really should be a problem-solving exercise. blame is pretty clear. the verdict is in. the responsibility of epa going back to the crisis in the nation's capital, now in flint, and heaven knows in the state, i think has had even to be admitted. i want to alert my colleagues of the national implications of this hearing.
because if a high-profile lead episode in the nation's capital didn't alert people in 2000, surely this is the time for each of us to inquire of the appropriate authorities if they are engaging in some of the tests that we have just heard described here. in the district there were late-term miscarriages and spontaneous abortions. after an unusually high rate of lead was found in the water between 2000 and 2003. when a corrosion control substance was added to the water, miscarriages and spontaneous abortions reverted to the normal rate. ours was somewhat different.
we've heard here about preflushing. mr. beauvais says or at least i understand from the testimony that there's a rule that says you can't preflush. but, of course, the epa doesn't know if people are preflushing at all and they were preflushing. in flint and just to indicate what preflushing means, you're flushing away the lead. then you test! why? that is a deliberate close to criminal act. is there monitoring of preflushing? just that one notion. i don't mean that you go into every jurisdiction, i mean the kind of scientific monitoring that lets you know whether preflushing is going on by the epa. >> the epa task force in flint has provided clear guidance to the mdeq --
>> do you monitor whether or not at this moment preflushing is going on in jurisdictions, for example, that my colleagues represent? >> prestagnation flushing is a concern that dr. edwards and others have brought to our concern and it's something we are looking closely at right now in our oversight activities across the country. >> so, answer is no. watch out, everybody, when you are told there is no lead in your water they could be preflushing because nobody's looking to see whether preflushing is going on. mr. creagh, you do concede fault and you weren't there at the time. and then you go back to the lead and copper rule and you talk about epa and its urgency. the only official that has been cited here for understanding that there was a problem was mr. del toro of the epa, so i can understand that there's no consensus on the lead and copper rule. but let's look at the commonsense way that corrosion
is controlled. i tell you not only in the district of columbia, but i'm sure all over the united states. you are not asserting, are you, that you needed to somehow get a consensus? your testimony used the word consensus on the lead and copper rule. before deciding to use corrosion control when you changed sources of water? >> i am not. >> could i ask you this -- we know that this is a billion dollar problem if you go to changing everybody's lead pipes. in the district we had this terrible situation where people actually went to the trouble of changing the lead pipes in their own home and it made the lead worse because unless the city deals with the lead pipes going from your home, then not only does that not cure the problem,
it makes the problem worse. so, watch out for changing the lead pipes. all over the united states of america your pipes are full of lead. neither the federal government nor your state, federal government should have been pressing this, should have been giving money for this. you should have been adding money of your own to change pipes or to use control. that is a problem in our ancient water system. so, i want to know how to get a quick fix now. these people are not going to remove themselves from flint. they can't sell their homes now. nobody wants to come to flint, an already troubled area. let's look at, mr. creagh, let's look at corrosion control. that was the addition of a substance. that's how it's done in the
united states. they're not yanking out every pipe. they're using this substance. are you committed to using this substance? what is the cost of this substance? and how early can this chemical to control the lead to keep it from leaching into the water be inserted into the water supply? may i get a direct answer to that question. >> yes, that actually was -- the additional phosphate was added on december 9th to increase the potential to phosphate those pipes. that's in progress and being done. >> is the water now safe to drink? >> we cannot guarantee at this point in time the water's safe to drink, so if you could, mr. chairman -- >> sure. >> -- could i elaborate a little bit? >> the gentle woman's time has expired, but please answer the question. >> we've mapped the parcels in
flint that we know of. there's 56,000 parcels. we put them on a gis database if you will to dr. edwards' point. there's uncertainty as to where there's lead service lines. out of 30,000 known there's reported to be 5,200 of those. so, what we're doing is we're overlaying that information and also the information going door to door and knocking on doors talking to individuals those that would be willing to be part of a sample. we're then putting three-person teams in those homes of a plumber, someone who can actually address how do you take a sample so you don't preflush so it's stagnant and it's a wide mouth bottle so you pick them up on a routine basis and a recorder so we can do that and we're working with the epa task force to see what type of time interval makes sense before you can make that declarative statement. >> thank the gentleman. we now recognize the gentleman from florida for five minutes.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. it's good to follow the gentle lady from the district because i was here in '95 when we took over the district, put in a control board. at that time if you think flint is bad, the district, they had hundreds of bodies of indigents that were stacked like cord. they couldn't bury. the kids were getting from a vendor only chicken and rice in the district's care. there's 60,000 people employed by the district. we had a crack-smoking mayor. we had about half a billion dollar -- running about half a billion dollar deficit. you don't have the federal government in flint to take that up, so flint isn't being picked on. i remember when you had to boil the water. i remember when -- what the gentle lady said, the water was
not safe to drink in this building. they taped the water fountains up. they told people to boil the water. in government we have a fundamental responsibility and that is this class of water, that's our responsibility to make sure that water is pure and drinkable. you know, just for members' information, we call the sum superintendent's office if this is safe, they would not release to me a member of congress to release the tests. i ask unanimous consent the superintendent give us the information from the last 15 or 20 years because i think we have a right to know if it's safe here in the nation's capital. but i tell you, you are not being picked on alone. but when you look at this -- and the district was taken over by a control board. there wasn't even a local vote. representative kildee said there was no decision.
it was a 7-1vote as i vote to l happen. there's no problem with the flint river if it was properly treated? and the water that came out of the plant was fine. what happened was -- the gentleman from michigan said for lack of $80 to $100 a day, that's what you said, which is about -- let me do the math. it's about $30,000, it wasn't $50 million we heard cited being cut or something. for that much money we poisoned the kids in flint, didn't we? isn't -- that's what we did. and we have -- and she was properly termed a citizen and a hero. she is a citizen-hero. she stepped up, ms. walters, thank god that you stepped up and you persisted. and look at the time frame, though, they had the opportunity to act, to put the phosphate in
to control the degreedation of the pipes. that wasn't done. she alerted them and that was back in -- when did you do that? what month? >> that was in march of 2015. >> 2015. and it went on and on. and -- >> do you know why the phosphates were not added? >> why? >> because they did not have the equipment at the treatment plant to add the phosphates. >> but, again, it's a simple solution that should have been placed in place. and the state or the federal government -- and you got blown off by the locals, right? >> yes, sir. >> you got blown off by the state, right? >> yes, sir. >> so you went to the federal government and they failed you? >> everybody but mr. del toro, sir. >> yes, exactly. and this is just unacceptable. we have a responsibility that these kids -- now, everybody's talked about blame and accountability and we should
hold these people accountable. now we've got the kids who have drunk this water and are bathed in this water. every kid in that community should be tested. and then if there's residual results, don't you think that someone should be responsible? it should be the state government, the federal government and the local government should be responsible to make certain those kids, now and in the future -- well, first we need to test them. is that under way, mr. creagh? >> yes, sir, there's testing available. >> and then we should set aside a fund or whatever because we should make certain that these kids are taken care of. and then, mr. edwards said, this is going on not just in flint. it's going on in d.c. it's go iing on in durham, we heard testimony today. it needs to stop and we need to make certain the system works, right, mr. edwards? >> that's correct. >> right? >> yes, sir. >> and you're new on the block.
>> yes, sir. >> thank you, citizen-hero, we appreciate what you did. >> thank you. audience is reminded to -- to hold their applause, please. we'll now recognize the gentleman from virginia, mr. connelly, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we ought to be clear about flint. arguably one of the worst municipal environmental tragedies in the modern era in the united states. and it was manmade. and it is the consequence actually of implementing a political philosophy of social darwinism, of smaller governm t government, of rabid anti-regulation, of attack after attack after attack on the epa because our financiers don't
like it. let's be very clear how flint happened. it did not happen by accident. and it wasn't a 7-1vote to switch the source of water. that was the vote to switch water authorities. they didn't vote on going to the river. and those who want to argue with there's nothing wrong with the water, just add some phosphate to it, please, send a liter of that water to every one of my colleagues that want to take that position and watch them drink it. this is the consequence of putting ideology ahead of human beings and their needs and their welfare. the difference in political philosophy matters. political choices have consequences, and flint is the most dramatic in our generation.
i do accuse, i do lay this at the doorstep of those who share that philosophy. and i want to see the governor at this table. if -- if you're so passionate and sanctimonious about holding people accountable, and god knows we've done that in the seven years i've been on this committee, then let's have the governor snyder at this table explaining himself. mr. creagh, in october of last year the governor appointed a task force, the flint water advisory task force, and this is their report to the governor, is that correct? >> they've issued some interim letters to the governor. >> but it's a governor's appointed task force, is that correct or not? >> yes, sir. >> and let me see. and december 29th that interim letter you refer says, and i quote, we believe primary responsibility for what happened in flint rests with your department, the deq. although many individuals in
city and state local levels contributed to prolonging the problem, the michigan department of environmental quality is the government agency that has responsibility to assure safe drinking water in michigan. it failed in that responsibility and must be held accountable for that failure. are you aware of that finding, that interim finding? >> i've read the letter, met with the committee a couple times. >> do you take issue with it? >> i do not. >> so you agree? >> in retrospect, i agree. >> hmm. okay. they, then, said -- they actually characterized your agency's response, quote, an abysmal public response to the crisis, unquote. do you agree with that characterization? >> in retrospect, i think that the auditor general agrees with that also that we were minimallistic and legalistic in our behavior. >> mr. edwards, is the primary
responsibility here epa's or deq's? how does it work? >> without question the primary responsibility is those paid to protect michigan's citizens from lead in water. that's their job. and that lies exclusively with the mdeq. >> and, professor edwards, just so for the record because we're seeing -- we're hearing a little mushiness about that, let's blame the epa. and the epa has some culpability here, no question, but in terms of water quality, isn't that how it works? the epa relies on state deqs, certainly in our state, virginia, to carry out the responsibility of oversight of water quality primarily, is that not the case? >> that's correct. >> and in this case were there warning flags at all for michigan deq about switching the source of water in advance -- before they did it? >> well, if they weren't before they did it, as soon as they made the switch there was warning sign after warning sign -- >> and what did they do after
those warning signs? >> they denied, denied and denied that there was a problem. >> and that put ms. walters, people at risk, is that not true? i give you the last word on how this happened. >> yes, it did put us at risk. it wasn't my job to figure out that there was no corrosion control in the water. they should have known that from the start. >> you had a reasonable expectation, did you not, that you could rely on the government to protect you and your family? >> yes, i did. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> now recognize the gentleman from arizona, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. administrator beauvais, thank you for appearing today. when did the epa first learn of the high lead levels in flint's water? >> i think there were indications in the spring of 2015 with the testing of ms. walters' house and some neighboring houses that very high lead levels were being found there. >> now, i understand the
concept, you know, i deal a lot with water, that epa, the environmental quality, but it's set up as a checks and balances, wouldn't you agree? >> epa has an oversight responsibility. >> you do. would you agree, mr. edwards? >> yes, i do. >> so, if something fails there's another line that should come about. so, i'm going to go along this line of the epa. when did epa administrator mccarthy first visit flint about this crisis? >> i believe that yesterday was administrator's mccarthy's first visit to flint. >> it wasn't until yesterday that she visited for the first time, hmm. so, the day before this hearing. so, administrator mccarthy knew about this crisis for eight months but didn't visit flint until the day before a congressional hearing. >> i don't believe that administrator mccarthy knew about the crisis for eight months. >> really? something dynamic as this and you didn't relay that up the chain? >> well, i came into this job in november of 2015, so i don't have personal knowledge of all
that communications that were done. >> what's today? >> it's -- >> it's february, 2016, right? to me, when you prioritize, i'm a health care provider, i'm a dentist, you triage things like this. this is something that is a dynamic tragedy because it's an ongoing prok, wouldn't you agree? >> i do. >> wouldn't you put the highest priority on that application to figure out how -- what went wrong and accept some of the blame and try to go forward, would you not? >> this absolutely is our highest priority. >> well, it sure doesn't show it to me because if she knew in november, it's february before she shows up in flint? >> the epa has been intensively engaged in this situation since well before -- >> it's the same old thing. you got to remember this the same epa that knew about what was going to happen in a mine blowout in colorado and now has a lot of people all the way down from colorado, utah, california, and arizona all at risk because of some of their actions, so, yes, everybody desires our should take some of the blame,
but some of that blame goes to the epa. and it goes to the head honcho. just like, for example, me and my office, somebody comes into my office and something goes wrong, i'm accountable for that. i find it despicable that gina mccarthy, administrator, shows up in flint yesterday instead of going there immediately. particularly when we see the outrage from the other side and from the people in this audience in regards to children and the lead poisoning that occurs. that's just despicable. administrator, an epa employee, susan hedman, tried to discuss the seriousness of this memo in e-mails in july, 2015, saying it was a draft. stating the memo never should have been released and stating the memo never had final approval from the epa hierarchy. hedman has since resigned, right? >> yes, she has since resigned. >> why did she resign? >> because the region and the epa could be fully focused on
our response in flint. >> why wasn't he fishe fired? >> i can't answer that question. she stepped aside so we could focus all our attention -- >> make sure the administrator has that question because we'll ask that when the administrator is here. why wasn't she fired. the initial memo was sent june 24th. ms. hedman promised a final memo. was a final memo ever released? >> i believe the final memo was released in october. >> november. >> november. >> was it a comprehensive memo that details the chronicness and dynamic aspect of this tragedy? >> this particular memo that mr. del toro did was focused on the testing of lead at mrs. walters' house and the neighboring homes. >> but this memo i understand is not nearly the comprehensive aspect. would you consider it a shell of a release? >> the memo was focused on the specific testing that was done at mrs. walters' house and the neighboring homes and was a
comprehensive look at that situation. it is not the entirety of epa's review of the situation. >> director creagh, i appreciate your testimony today, and you're one person today who has accepted some responsibility and your governor has previously done the same through this crisis even though there's fault all the way across. that is commendable. do you believe this incident would have occurred had the flint city council not voted to change its water source? >> i think this incident occurred because of the lack of phosphate being added. >> no, but if you never made the change, you would have never had this catastrophic event, right? >> that's a true statement. >> what would have happened if the city would have followed the directions of its water utility consultant? >> there were a difficultaerent consultants, it have minimized the problem. >> what would have happened if the city followed the proper
corrosive treatment? >> as dr. edwards stated, we would not have had this problem. >> so a series of checks and balances,everybody pointing the finger and nobody accepting the blame except yourself and the governor, i find that very humbling bad, that the government is not being part of this solution here. with that i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. now recognize the ranking member, mr. cummins. >> i was going to let mr. cartwright go, mr. creagh, i'm getting very concerned about your testimony because i want to remind you that you are sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. so let's go over what you just said. and i got to get it right in here because i'm kind of concerned because i don't want the public to not see this for the accurate truth.
mr. creagh, governor snyder recently named you as the new head of the michigan department of environmental quality last month, your boss governor snyder, and i'm hoping he's watching, by the way, gave this 2016 state of the state address. in his speech the governor seemed to take responsibility for the flint crisis stating that, and i quote, the buck stops here with me, and that, quote, i take full responsibility to fix the problem so that it will never happen again. however, in the same breath governor snyder also tried to blame the city of flint, this sounds like you're doing right now, and he said this and i quote, this crisis began in the spring of 2013 when the flint city council voted 7-1 to buy water from the water authority, end of quote. mr. creagh, do you agree with
governor snyder's statement? >> the question that i responded to, sir, was if they would never have changed their water source would this issue have happened. and i believe that's a true statement because they were on detroit water and sewer department water which was phosphated and they had a 30-year history. so, i apologize if i misrepresented -- >> i'm not finished. just hold on. i'm not finished. we received -- we reviewed the resolution passed by the city council and the minutes from the meeting. at no point during the meeting did the city council vote to allow the flint river to be used for drinking water. isn't that correct, mr. creagh? >> i've revi haven't reviewed t personally but that's my understanding. >> mr. chairman, i would like to introduce into the record a letter we just received yesterday from sheldon a. neeley who served on the city council
from 2005 to 2014. he was actually there. he was there, mr. creagh, all right? in his letter mr. neeley explains that the city council did not -- can we have the letter? where's the letter? you got it? where's the letter? oh, they have it. in his letter mr. neeley explains that the city council did not make the decision to use the flint river because, quote, the flint city council had no power to actually enact any laws for the community. everything went through the emergency manager, end of quote. who was opponented by the governor. he also says this and i quote -- did you need something? >> we'll enter the record without objection. >> you're making me nervous with your finger. this is what he said. it was the emergency manager ed kurtz who made the decision to
use the flint river as a primary source of drinking water for the city of flint. mr. creagh, are you aware of mr. kurtz's actions? >> no, sir, i was not in the seat at the time. >> and, mr. creagh, so mr. neeley also wrote, quote, governor snyder's account of the events leading to this water crisis are completely wrong, end of quote. why would governor snyder try to blame the city council for this decision when it was his own appointee who made it and you have a city council that has no authority? there's something wrong with that! that's why i interjected here because i want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. now, let me ask you -- i'm not finished. do you have any reason to believe that mr. neeley is not >> i have no reason to believe. >> now, mr. neeley's letter is supported by statements from
present in's former mayor dane walling on january 22nd, 2016, he stated and i quote, after city council and i expressed support for a new water supply from lake huron, the emergency manager, edward kurtz, went behind closed doors with the department of environmental quality and decided to use the flint receiver as an interim source, made the budget changes, and put that in place, end of quote. were you aware of mayor wallington's statement? >> i am not. >> all right. based on the evidence it seems that governor snyder was trying to blame the city of flint for actions of his own appointee, and he did this in his state of the state address to the entire population of flint. now, let me ask you something else, are people paying right now in flint for water they cannot wash in and cannot use and cannot drink? are they paying water bills? and is it a part of the recovery -- you said you want to make them whole.
is that part of it? why are they -- why would they be paying for water that they cannot even use that is poisoning them? that's not america! as mr. chairman said, this is not a third world country! are they paying those bills? are you going to relieve them of that? >> everyone deserves safe drinking water and that's the expectation. and yesterday the governor introduced a supplemental for $30 million to help with that issue. the number one issue as we've spoken with the mayor is to make sure the utility remains solvent, and the billing is actually more of a city issue, but we understand and respect that. and everyone deserves water that is safe. >> mr. chairman, as i close, these are people who are
struggling. they're struggling. they've come over here all the way here from flint. i don't know how they got here. i guess on a bus. but the fact that they're here. but do you know what, mr. creagh, and mr. chairman, they are also americans. they're also americans, just like you and just like your children. and i don't -- and i want to be real, real, real clear, and the chairman will bear me out on this, i have said, i don't care whether it's epa, whether it's local, whether it's state, i want everybody who is responsible for this fiasco to be held accountable. i'm not protecting anybody because that's not our job! we are the last line of defense! and if we don't do it, nobody's going to do it! i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. now recognize the gentleman from north carolina, mr. meadows, for five minutes.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, ms. walters, for your testimony. truly it has made a profound difference in such a way -- i'm from north carolina. a long way away from flint, michigan, but in a way we're connected. i got texts this morning from people who have been affected by region four, not region five, but with water quality issues for years and the epa's failure to address them. now, the troubling thing for me is, is that what i hear from our water quality epa official is that they're going to just let the office of inspector general do their work. now, the problem with that is -- and i have high regard for that particular inspector general. in fact, i can tell you, ms.
walters, that they will continue to look at it in a very detailed way. but it will not be enough. there is more than enough blame to go around. the problem is there's not enough answers to be shared. and so i'm going to come to the epa and ask you, since foia is under my subcommittee and the foia request allows the public to look at documents, often used in a regular basis by reporters, and i'm troubled to hear that the foia request that dr. edwards has made has actually you haven't complied with the law. what do you say to that? >> my understanding is that we're actively working in due -- >> active is not enough. let me just tell you, we got families that are suffering, and there's a law that says that you have to respond, within 21 days.
so, what do you say to dr. edwards, who's been requesting information, because as i understand, dr. edwards, if you will help me with this, that you've made requests both of the state and of the feds. who have been more responsive to you, dr. edwards? >> the state of michigan has been very responsive. >> and so, how many documents of what you've requested from the epa have you received to date? >> i'd have to check, but i still have foias outstanding from nine years ago in washington, d.c., that i appealed in 2005 and an attorney from epa just contacted me one month ago about so -- >> nine years. >> nine years. >> let me tell you the trouble i have with this. we have a site in western north carolina called cts. you're familiar about it, aren't you? >> i have heard about the site. i do not have direct personal
knowledge about it. >> i would ask since you're new to the job you get some personal knowledge. >> yes, sir. >> because we have a recurring theme here. we have unbelievable regulations that come down and then the epa does not you think? >> it's important for epa to enforce its regulations. >> can you share with me your rationale why it would take nine years to answer a foia request for dr. edwards? >> i have no idea, i'm not familiar with the specific requests. >> what commitment do we have from you today to get those foia responses answered as it relates to the flint, michigan, issue? >> i will take that back and insure -- >> you'll take it back. when can this committee and when can dr. edwards expect a response? is the law clear? >> i believe that the law is clear on the timeframes for response. i'll take that back and insure it's a high priority. >> you prepared for this hearing this morning. when you were talking about the
information that needed to be shared with the people of flint, what was your own internal guidance among your attorneys, a couple i guess are sitting behind you, what did they recommend that you share? because what happens is everybody gets lawyered up. then they do nothing. from a bipartisan standpoint, this republican from western north carolina is going to work from -- with democrats from michigan to make sure that not only you're held accountable but the state is held accountable and all those who have been involved in this are held accountable. we've got children, it could have been my children in flint, michigan. and i'm not going to forget that. it could have been your children. so what kind of commitment do we have from you to get the documents to this committee so we can figure out who is to blame? >> my understanding is there
have been discussions between the staff and agency and a commitment has been made to work expeditiously to get unredacted documents. >> do you think the 60 days is enough time? >> my understanding is that actually the agency has agreed to provide some documents that we can provide by the end of this week. >> very good. i yield back. >> we will recognize the gentleman from pennsylvania for five minutes. >> i'd like to associate myself with the remarks of the ranking member mr. cummings. we have what we see here is the responsible culpable party being caught red handed. so red handed, that he had to admit his blame and apologize to the nation and to flint this governor of michigan, and his emergency manager hand picked. to save money.
in keeping with his philosophy of government to save money on infrastructure at the expense of public safety. he got caught red handed poisoning children in flint. and the residents of flint. there's no two ways about it. that's the headline here. you know, criminals, when they get caught red handed, do you know what they start to do right away? they start to try to spread the blame. there's plenty of blame to go around i heard. there's plenty of blame to go around. so let's just put aside the fact that the governor of michigan got caught red handed poisoning his citizens, let's forget that. let's blame the michigan -- the flint local officials. you know, the representative from flint got up here and testified and made a very prescient point that it's an
attempt to create an equivalency of blame. that's what i say they're spreading the blame out. anytime somebody says something about a seven to one vote in flint, that is what he's talking about, people trying to put the blame on the local officials in flint, blame that has no place in local officials in flint. this is the governor of michigan at fault. his emergency managers. i was saddened to hear my colleague from florida say out loud, talk about the wa7-1 vote. they voted 7-1 on something different. that's ridiculous. it's reprehensible attempt to achieve what he called the equivalency of blame and something that criminal defendants always do when they get caught red handed.
mr. creagh i want to talk about what the state did. it made a decision not to use the flint river and then it reversed that decision. am i correct in that? >> i wasn't party to the decision. >> according to press reports, one of the emergency managers, mr. jerry ambrose, is he here today? can anybody tell me why jerry ambrose is not here today? can anybody tell me why the governor of michigan is not here today? because he's hiding. that's what's happening. ambrose testified in a sworn deposition in 2012 the governor's previous emergency manager in flint, ed kurtz rejected to use flint river as drinking water. are you aware of that decision mr. creagh? >> i am not. >> it says it was a collective decision of the emergency
management team based on conversations with the deq that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of flint river on a long term basis as a primary source of water. mr. creagh, mr. ambrose would ask why your department made that recommendation. he replied, you'll have to ask them. i'm asking you as the head of mdeq, why did your department previously oppose the use of flint river water as a primary source back in 2012? >> i don't have knowledge as to that conversation nor decision. >> you don't know. your predecessor was dan wyatt that's what we called for his deposition, mr. chairman. i press that request. i'm trying to figure out what happened between 2012 when your department, mr. creagh opposed using the flint river, and tw20 when you signed off on permits to allow it. you can't explain tat hat to us
because you weren't there at the time. >> that's correct. >> we're having a hearing in washington, d.c. with witnesses who do not have knowledge of the subject. how interested are we getting to the facts when they bring witnesses who don't go what went wrong. in a press release, michael priceby of your department said the quality of the water being put out meets our standards and flint water is safe to drink. he said that, you know that right? >> yes. >> that was a lie, wasn't it? >> his comment was in relation to ship to the water leaving the plant, making sure it meant safe drinking water standards. that's what he based that comment on. >> mr. chairman, i'm out of time. i hope you'll designate a minority day of hearings as as soon as possible so that we could have witnesses who actually know what the facts were at the time. i yield back.
>> gentleman from georgia, is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. mr. bovay, the rule may not be as protected as previously considered. the safe drinking water act requires that the led and copper rule be updated every six years. are you aware of that? >> there is a provision in the safe water drinking act. >> when was the last time it was updated? >> 2007 is the last time that the rule was updated. >> why is the epa so far behind? >> we've been working actively. we wanted to get advice from the advisory council. we received advice from -- >> how many years does it take to get the information in order to abide by what you are required to do? >> this is the high priority for us. it's essential we move forward with revisions. >> is it a high priority -- i don't know, mr. chairman there's
been more of a catastrophe in government handling of an issue since hurricane katrina. this is a train wreck in every way and the epa is so far behind not doing the job. when will the updated version be ready? >> the current schedule for proposing ruvisions to the rule is 2017. it's important we take actions in advance of completing revisions to the rule to review how the rule is being implemented. dr.edswards and others have raised issues regarding the implementation of the current rule -- >> my question is when will it be ready? >> my expectation is it would be proposed in 2017. >> do we have your commitment it will be early 2017? >> i certainly would hope that the agency -- >> you realize that yet another year to get done something that should have been done four years ago now? do we have your commitment that it will be done in early --
>> i can commit our work on the revisions will be one of the highest priorities in my office as well as work to address implementation of the current rule. >> when mr. del toral produced his memo finding the high levels of lead in the drinking water in june, where did the memo go? >> my understanding is he gave the memo directly to ms. walters who is home with the subject of the testing. my understanding is that was provided to a reporter and that it went out into the public. >> at some point, mr. del toral was on leave of absence, who worked on this issue in his absence? >> i'm not aware he was placed on leave of absence. >> okay. mr. edwards let me go to you. do you believe in any way that the epa's management of this whole thing hindered its employees from having the ability