As Trump Guts EPA From Within, Watchdog Report Blasts Agency for Failures Related to Flint Water Crisis

A new report lays blame on all levels of government for the water crisis that has gripped Flint, Michigan for more than four years, and which safety advocates say has yet to be fully resolved.

As the Trump administration urges budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency’s inspector general found that the EPA responded far too slowly to a regional office’s concerns about Flint’s water after tests showed high levels of lead in April 2015. The discovery came a year after the city began using the Flint River as a drinking water source, switching from Detroit’s water system to save money.

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The EPA did not immediately publicize the findings, urging Michigan officials to address the problem and failing to oversee the response.

“While oversight authority is vital, its absence can contribute to a catastrophic situation,” EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins said in a statement. “This report urges the EPA to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water programs now so that the agency can act quickly in times of emergency.”

Michigan was also found to have responded far to slowly to the Flint crisis, which began due to high levels of lead in the city’s river. State officials did not acknowledge the toxicity of the water, waiting until September 2016 to shift the city’s drinking water source back to Detroit, after researchers at Virginia Tech compared some water samples from the river to “toxic waste.”