In Flint Water Battle, EPA Sides With State Order to Fix
By Ron Fonger
The federal government supports the state of Michigan's proposed administrative consent order for the Flint water system, a document that points out deficiencies that must be fixed and deadlines for addressing each one.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "fully supports (the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's) primacy agency authority to issue an (administrative consent order) for all deficiencies the city has not corrected," Linda Holst, acting director of the EPA's Water Division, said in a Wednesday, Aug. 8, letter to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
In June, Weaver refused to sign a consent order from the state, a demand she called "unnecessary and unwarranted" state oversight.
The Flint Journal could not immediately reach a spokeswoman for the mayor for comment Thursday, Aug. 9.
Weaver said in June that she would not sign a new consent order with the state and would request a hearing if the DEQ attempted to impose it without her support.
The proposed consent order points out 13 deficiencies for the city to resolve, deadlines for correcting each, and penalties of up to $500 a day for each deficiency not corrected on time.
DEQ spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said her agency "looks forward to working with the city of Flint to assist them with their responsibilities in ensuring that they continue to provide quality drinking water to the residents of Flint."
DEQ officials hope to work with the city before finalizing the consent order, includes the deadlines for achieving various tasks.
"The (existing) order will almost certainly be modified based on input from the city" before the mayor is asked to sign it again, Brown said.
That 14-page document includes an acknowledgment by the city that it is in violation of the state Safe Drinking Water Act because of unresolved problems, including not having a manager dedicated to preventing sewage from contaminating drinking water.
Other deficiencies included not having a plan to implement a sufficient rate structure that reflects the cost of adequate staffing and laboratory facilities and not having hired a full-time operator in charge of the water plant on a permanent or contractual basis.
Although Flint is already required to comply with a federal emergency order issued by the EPA in January 2016, Holst said that order "does not cover all elements MDEQ seeks to include" in its order.
"I appreciate the efforts that both sides have put into resolving the deficiencies identified in the sanitary survey," Holst said. "The city has made and continues to make good faith efforts to resolve the identified issues ...
"I hope the city and state can resolve (this) issue, so the parties can focus on resolving the rest of the sanitary survey deficiencies."
Weaver has called the proposed consent order "retaliatory and punitive" -- an attempt to punish Flint for fighting against the state's "abrupt and unilateral termination of bottled water funding" earlier this year.
(c)2018 The Flint Journal, Mich.