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Congressman Kildee says he's pleased the EPA will review Michigan's drinking water program

Protesters in Flint.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Protesters in Flint.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be watching over the state of Michigan's shoulder to make sure our drinking water is safe.

The EPA will audit the state's drinking water safety program after the state Department of Environmental Quality admitted it failed to use the correct protocols when it approved the switch to the Flint River as the primary source of drinking water for Flint.

That mistake led to dangerously high lead levels in that city's drinking water.

Flint's Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee joined us today to discuss the EPA’s audit.

Kildee says it appears the EPA’s audit of the MDEQ is the federal review that has the teeth that he’s been looking for.

“It seems that there is incompetence, or mismanagement, or a lack of attention within the Department of Environmental Quality. They sort of have acknowledged that themselves in this case. That kind of failure has consequences. And they could be significant health consequences,” says Kildee.

Kildee says he’s not concerned about the EPA being complicit in the failings that occurred in Flint, saying the federal agency pushed the state for answers on whether or not a corrosion control program had been implemented.

The state initially replied that they did have a corrosion control program in place. That later turned out to not be true.

Kildee says the larger lesson in this is that people can’t take a “bean counter” approach to managing cities. He says politicians who equate running a business with running a government are missing the point.

“You can bankrupt a business.  You can disassemble a business. You can sell off the parts and put it away. Cities are human organisms. You can’t just simply treat it as if,’well, you know what, we’ll save money over here, and the balance sheet looks better.’”

The result of this decision, Kildee says, was “lead-laced water going into the bodies of children.”

He says the Snyder administration looks at a lot of problems as “balance sheet problems,” and says that's why it failed in this case. 

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