EPA plans to audit state’s water quality program

Detroit News staff and wire reports

The results of water tests at several hundred buildings in Flint indicate drinking water at all homes, businesses and schools needs to be tested for possible lead contamination, state officials said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said tests from nearly 400 homes and businesses as well as comprehensive results from Freeman Elementary School indicate problems with lead are localized to individual buildings or even individual faucets.

“The results from this data underline the need for water testing at all homes, businesses, schools and other buildings in Flint,” George Krisztian, the DEQ’s Flint action plan coordinator, said in a statement Monday. “We want to see all families in Flint take advantage of free water testing from the state.”

The announcement came as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said they plan to audit Michigan’s drinking water program with respect to its handling of Flint’s water, officials said Tuesday.

Two months ago, researchers found elevated blood-lead levels in children whose Flint homes received water from the Flint River. The state has said it had applied the wrong standards in monitoring the water.

“This comprehensive audit will provide Flint residents and the people of Michigan with more information about MDEQ oversight of public water supplies and will identify actions that may be needed to strengthen the Michigan drinking water program,” said Susan Hedman, the EPA’s regional administrator.

The audit is expected to last several months, according to EPA.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who had requested the EPA review, said he met Tuesday with Hedman and the task force of EPA experts looking into the Flint water crisis.

“The people of Flint deserve answers,” said Kildee, D-Flint Township.

Gov. Rick Snyder has also convened an advisory task force to review how water use and testing was handled in Flint.

“The DEQ just released some more information that I think is very helpful, and I encourage people to continue to do more water testing in Flint and to keep using filters,” Snyder said Tuesday.

At Freeman Elementary, 31 faucets were tested. There was no lead exposure from 22 outlets, but nine came back with initially high results. When the faucets and fountains were operated for several minutes, lead levels fell significantly, in some cases to non-detectable levels, the state said.

The DEQ is suggesting the faucets be flushed before use but in the long term need to be replaced.