Congressman Dan Kildee Testimony Before EPA Drinking Water Advisory Council Regarding Flint Water Crisis

November 18, 2015

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) today testified before a meeting of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) about the Flint water crisis and changes to federal policy that can be made to promote transparency and accountability for city residents. A full transcript of his remarks, as delivered is below:

“I just want to bring to your attention the story of my hometown, Flint, Michigan. I’m sure many of you have been following the case of Flint. Water and the health of my community and the quality of water is the single most important issue right now back home. It’s the one we hear about more than anything else.

“What happened in Flint is a failure of government. People expected that the government at multiple levels would be able to protect them by making sure that the water that they drink is healthy for them, and the government failed them. And I’m here to specifically address that.

“If it were not for some unsung heroes, some individuals back home that insisted and continued to press the case that the water in Flint was unsafe, it may have never have come to light. So people like Leanne Walters, who we will hear from, Dr. Marc Edwards, who provided the data that warned of this, data which was dismissed by many at multiple levels of government, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, all of whom are here, who found elevated lead levels in Flint’s children.

“Again, initially that data, that really important data, was essentially dismissed by individuals who were responsible to make sure that the water in my hometown, the water which was flowing through the plumbing of people in Flint, Michigan, was safe. Thanks to them we were able to uncover this incredible health crisis, and that’s what I’m here to address. I also want to acknowledge – and you’ll hear from him again soon – Senator Jim Ananich, whom I’ve known for a long time and who has been an important part of the effort back home.

“So after months, the state of Michigan finally admitted that federal drinking water laws, including the Lead and Copper Rule, were not followed. Ultimately the EPA has responsibility to ensure that clean drinking water standards are followed.

“This new Lead and Copper Rule must have greater transparency in order to restore public confidence and protect public health and ensure the safety of drinking water. Residents deserve to know why for months the state of Michigan failed to follow federal safe drinking water laws. At my request, the EPA is conducting a complete audit of Michigan’s implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule, so I hope some of the lessons learned during that audit can be included in the latest revisions of this Lead and Copper Rule.

“As I mentioned, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and other experts are testifying today and can go into more detail on the details of the necessary changes to the rule. But I want to highlight what I see as a couple of gross failures.

“The current rule, for example, did not require rigorous testing and modeling before switching to a new water source. Something that back home seems unfathomable, to go from a source that is derived from the greatest freshwater source on the planet, surface freshwater source, the Great Lakes, to the Flint River, which, if you live in my hometown at the time seemed almost like the punchline to a joke. The notion that that wouldn’t trigger a much more robust analysis of what that water consisted of, and what that would mean in terms of treatment required, is almost beyond reason.

“The current rule also failed to require the city of Flint, which was under the management of the state government at the time, to add corrosion control treatment. And the testing methodologies allowed for, until very recently, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, as their protocol suggested, treat flushed water before supplying test samples, which obviously could obfuscate – and did in this case – the presence of lead going into those homes. So the experts can focus more on that.

“My interest is really making sure that this body understands that the state and federal officials neglected their obligations to notify the public of this health risk.

“I appreciate the efforts of this organization. The experience of the city of Flint is a real life experience and points to the importance of this rule having all the protections that you intend to put in it, and I sincerely hope that that will be the case. So thank you for giving me just a couple of minutes.”