What Flint panel says about fed, state, local agencies
Some key findings and recommendations issued by the Flint Water Advisory Task Force:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Finding: MDEQ, specifically its Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance (ODWMA), suffers from cultural shortcomings that prevent it from adequately serving and protecting the public health of Michigan residents.
Recommendation: Participate in EPA’s ongoing review and revision of the LCR (Lead and Copper Rule), conveying lessons learned from the Flint water crisis.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Finding: MDHHS’s lack of timely analysis and understanding of its own data on childhood blood lead levels, along with its reliance on MDEQ and reluctance to share state data with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Professor Marc Edwards, prolonged the Flint water crisis.
Recommendation: Establish policies and procedures at MDEQ and MDHHS to ensure input by health experts and scientists when permit decisions may have a direct impact on human health.
Finding: The Flint water crisis highlights the risks of over-reliance — in fact, almost exclusive reliance — on a few staff in one or two departments for information on which key decisions are based.
Recommendation: Expand information flow to the governor so that information providing the foundation for key decisions comes from more than one trusted source — and is verified.
Finding: Emergency managers, not locally elected officials, made the decision to switch to the Flint River as Flint’s primary water supply source.
Recommendation: Review Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law (PA 436) and its implementation, and identify measures to compensate for the loss of the checks and balances that are provided by representative government.
City of Flint
Finding: The emergency manager structure made it extremely difficult for Flint citizens to alter or check decision-making on preparations for use of Flint River water, or to receive responses to concerns about subsequent water quality issues.
Recommendation: Establish and fund a team of subject matter experts in water system operations (treatment and distribution system management) to support and train water system personnel, guide safe system operation under current conditions, and prepare for successful conversion to KWA.
Genesee County Health Department
Finding: Management of the Flint River-sourced water supply may have contributed to the outbreaks of Legionellosis in 2014 and 2015 in Genesee County. Although the definitive cause of the outbreaks is uncertain at the time of publication, GCHD and MDHHS did not notify the public of the outbreaks in a timely fashion in order to urge caution.
Recommendation: Presume that the risk of Legionella may remain elevated in the Flint water distribution system and take appropriate steps with public and private partners to monitor and mitigate that risk as concerns about water quality continue in Flint.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Finding: EPA was hesitant and slow to insist on proper corrosion control measures in Flint. MDEQ misinformation notwithstanding, EPA’s deference to MDEQ, the state primacy agency, delayed appropriate intervention and remedial measures.
Recommendation: Exercise more vigor, and act more promptly, in addressing compliance violations that endanger public health.