Flint — The Utah Republican congressman overseeing hearings on the Flint water crisis said Saturday he wants to help the city’s families and a “candid assessment” from Gov. Rick Snyder when he testifies in Washington next week.
“I can’t imagine the families just wanting to turn on their tap water. They’re paying the highest rates in the country and not getting the water,” said an exasperated U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, as he met with Flint leaders and toured the city’s water treatment plant.
“This is the United States of America, we’re not supposed to be acting like some third-world country, this should not happen here,” he said.
Chaffetz’s oversight committee holds its second Flint hearing on Tuesday — one of two scheduled for next week. Snyder and Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, are scheduled to testify Thursday.
In regards to Snyder’s testimony, Chaffetz said he wants, “a candid assessment of where we’ve been and where we need to go.”
Chaffetz said the EPA’s response to the crisis “just boggles my mind. The idea that they knew about this almost a year ago and didn’t do anything, that they didn’t let anybody know.”
He said the actions of the EPA have been intolerable.
“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress —although we did it — to say you have to do this, to provide notification to residents within a 24-hour period, that should just be common sense,” he said.
Chaffetz was joined by Michigan Republican Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, John Moolenaar of Midland and Tim Walberg of Tipton, who sits on the oversight panel.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, joined the congressional delegation and expressed what they said are the needs of Flint residents.
Weaver said the major point she wanted to communicate to Chaffetz is that the issue of water contamination and infrastructure failure can happen anywhere and to anyone.
“It didn’t matter if you were Republican, Democrat, old, young, rich, poor, black, white, it didn’t matter. This impacted all of the city of Flint and that’s why we need work together to solve this,” Weaver said.
Huizenga, whose mother grew up in Flint, said the resolution to the crisis is to make sure city water services are restored.
“That they are able to give clean water to the people of Flint who need it,” Huizenga said.
Addressing residents anger over the unknown time frame for when clean water will return to their faucets, Huizenga said, “clearly the people here in Flint out of the mayor’s office, the state folks, the federal folks don’t have an absolute answer to that yet and I understand why that would be frustrating but we’ll have to keep moving.”
Kildee thanked Chaffetz and the Republican delegation for coming to Flint and added his own frustration about the EPA’s initial response.
“I think point the chairman makes about accountability is an important one,” Kildee said. “Like my colleagues I’ve been critical of the EPA’s performance, I think they should have been shouting from the mountain tops when they saw problems in the water.”
Laura Sullivan, a mechanical engineering professor of at Kettering University and appointed to the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee by Snyder, was on hand to answer technical questions for the delegation.
Sullivan said it is difficult to say when all the water in the city will be safe. “You’ve got some people who have replaced their pipes, some that have older pipes, and water coming out of different peoples faucets was different.”