State task force investigates water crisis for policy changes - WNEM TV 5

State task force investigates water crisis for policy changes

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
LANSING, MI (WNEM) -

While the federal congressional committee listened to testimony from former mayor Dayne Walling, former emergency manager Darnell Earley, and former EPA District 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, a state legislative task force also investigated Flint’s water crisis.

The task force hosted its first hearing in Lansing on Tuesday.

Sen. Jim Stamas, from Midland, is the chairman of the joint committee.

"What we want to do is make sure we get the information, look at it and make good sound solutions on policy direction that moves us forward," Stamas said.

The first person to testify was Michigan's Auditor General Doug Ringler.

His office oversees state programs.

It conducted an audit of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and found that the MDEQ's oversight was inadequate with regard to Flint's transition to river water.

Safety regulations like the Lead and Copper Rule were insufficient in detecting problems.

"What we're saying is that the criteria was out there and criteria that the agency intended to follow but from our perspective the criteria clearly wasn't good enough," Ringler said.

Lawmakers said the main goal of these hearings is to make sure that what happened in Flint, never happens to another community.

"It certainly shows that we have weaknesses in the DEQ and throughout the state departments of communicating and or how they set their precedent, so that's what we're trying to do make sure we find solutions so we improve that processes," Stamas said.

But other committee members pointed out shortcomings in the audit, and asked why Ringler's office didn't examine emails pointing to other red flags, including problems with E. coli and Legionella in the water.

"I think that's a weakness in your audit and I suggest in the future those types of opportunities should be looked at as well because I think all of those things were bells being rung to indicate that there was a problem," said Rep. Ed Canfield.

Some Flint residents went to Lansing to watch the hearings. Whistleblower and Flint mom, Melissa Mays said seeing people start to be held accountable is a step in the right direction.

"Feels great. We're like yes we've been saying this all along and here it is in black and white," Mays said. "And you get this bad feeling in your stomach like, they actually did it, but you're like, yeah we knew it and now they have to face what they've done."

Mays said she wants to see the committee question the MDEQ.

The committee is expected to hear more testimony next week, but so far, lawmakers have not announced who they'll ask to testify.

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