FBI investigating Flint water crisis

Christine Ferretti, and Melissa Nann Burke
DetroitNews

Detroit — The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday confirmed the FBI is part of the ongoing federal investigation into the Flint water crisis.

Jill Washburn, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Detroit field office, told The Detroit News of the agency’s role in the growing probe.

“We’ve been investigating it for awhile,” Washburn said. “Our role in it is just investigating the matter to determine if there are any federal violations.”

In early January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit confirmed it was helping the federal Environmental Protection Agency investigate the Flint water crisis.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office normally doesn’t disclose ongoing probes. But Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, confirmed her agency’s investigation in January while explaining the worries of Flint’s residents may have prompted the agency’s disclosure.

Balaya, in a Tuesday email to The News, added that the office is “working with a multi-agency investigation team on the Flint water contamination matter, including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, EPA’s Office of Inspector General (an independent office within EPA that performs audits, evaluations, and investigations of EPA and its contractors to prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse) and EPA's Criminal Investigation Division (which investigates potential criminal violations of federal environmental law).”

Meanwhile, a congressional hearing is anticipated Wednesday over the lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water.

The hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is expected to focus on the inaction by Michigan and federal officials, who for months didn’t alert Flint residents to the health risks caused by lead leaching into the water supply, officials have said.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Friday, Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, cited a Detroit News article for raising “serious questions about the Environmental Protection Agency’s performance with respect to alerting the public about a health crisis related to the Flint, Michigan, water supply.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to ensure corrosion controls were added to the Flint River water when the city switched from the Detroit water system in April 2014. Snyder was not asked to testify at the hearing.

CFerretti@detroitnews.com