State lawmakers to hold water crisis hearing in Flint
Lansing — The new legislative committee examining the Flint water contamination crisis is planning a marathon eight-hour hearing in the city next week that will include sworn testimony from local officials and a public comment period.
Sen. Jim Stamas, the Midland Republican who chairs the six-member panel, said he and his colleagues will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Northbank Center on the University of Michigan-Flint campus. The hearing could last until 6 p.m., depending on how many residents ask to speak.
Stamas said he has invited former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, Mayor Karen Weaver, water treatment plant operators, county health officials, Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha of the Hurley Medical Center and Flint resident Lee-Anne Walters to testify.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, praised the decision to hold a hearing in his hometown but said the committee should also seek sworn testimony from the state-appointed emergency managers that ran the city before, during and after Flint began drawing drinking water from the Flint River in April 2014.
“Their role was pretty critical in this process, and now even the governor acknowledged they failed the citizens of Flint,” Ananich said, referencing Gov. Rick Snyder’s Thursday testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Snyder said last week of his emergency managers: “You wish they would have asked more questions.”
That congressional committee also heard testimony from former Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who was in charge when the city began using Flint River water, and is seeking an interview with former Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz, who signed paperwork to prepare the local water plant for the switch in June 2013.
Ananich, the ranking Democrat on the state committee, said he will push Stamas to extend invitations to Flint emergency managers.
“I would err on the side of calling as many people as possible and let them tell us why they don’t think they should come,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been calling for subpoena power the whole time, so if folks do evade us, we can make sure we can compel them to come.”
Stamas said he may still consider asking Flint emergency managers to testify before the committee, but that determination has not been made at this time. He has also not yet decided whether to call Snyder.
“We’ve not set a final hearing date or a final conclusion of who we will bring,” he said.
The state committee on Tuesday heard initial testimony from Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler, who said the state Department of Environmental Quality “inappropriately interpreted” the federal Lead and Copper Rule.
Regulators should have required corrosion control chemicals in the Flint River water, according to Ringler. The harsh water damaged aging pipes and leached lead into drinking water.
The state helped Flint return to Detroit’s Lake Huron water source in October, but residents continue to rely on bottled water and tap filters for daily needs.
Stamas and state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, joined Ananich in Flint on Monday to meet with local groups and tour the water treatment plant.
Ananich said he hopes holding a committee hearing in his city on Tuesday will help other lawmakers understand the scope of the crisis.
“I think it’s eye opening for folks who aren’t from there to see the way people are living their lives, and that not much has really changed,” Ananich said.
“There’s been a lot of committees formed, and subcommittees, and subcommittees of those subcommittees, but when it comes to actual resources getting in the hands of people, people don’t feel it.”