The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued a finding that the agency had the authority and sufficient information to issue an emergency order to protect Flint, Mich., residents from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015. The EPA did not issue the emergency order until seven months later, on January 21, 2016.
This finding results from an ongoing OIG program evaluation charged with reviewing the circumstances of, and the EPA’s response to, contamination in the city of Flint’s community water system, including the agency’s exercise of its oversight authority. After Flint switched its drinking water supply in April 2014, inadequate treatment exposed many of nearly 100,000 residents to lead.
“These situations should generate a greater sense of urgency,” said EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins. “Federal law provides the EPA with emergency authority to intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised. Employees must be knowledgeable, trained and ready to act when such a public health threat looms.”
The purpose of an OIG “management alert” is to emphasize the immediacy of concerns and need for action to appropriate EPA officials. This interim report informs the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance about factors that delayed the agency’s intervention in Flint using its emergency authority under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. As steps toward mitigating future crises, the OIG is recommending that the EPA update 25-year-old internal guidance on the use of emergency authority, and require the agency’s drinking water and water enforcement management and staff to attend training on the use of such authority
Direct to Report Summary
1 page; PDF.
Direct to Full Text Report
16 pages; PDF.
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