Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan

Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Hearing Date: February 3, 2016 9:00 am 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

0203 Flint


  • The Flint water crisis is a failure at every level of government.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 was aware of dangerously high levels of lead in Flint drinking water in April 2015, yet failed to act until January 2016 when they were forced to intervene.
  • EPA has an obligation to act under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) if the state is not in compliance with national standards of oversight and enforcement of public water systems.
    • Del Toral’s June 2015 memo unmistakably triggered the EPA’s obligation to act and assert control over the crisis.
    • Instead, then Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman downplayed and dismissed the memo to Flint’s Mayor and Flint residents.
    • Flint resident and mother LeeAnn Walters testified that “Susan Hedman cared more about policy than the welfare of an entire community, while punishing and silencing the one person that was willing to help us.”
  • EPA refused an October 2015 emergency petition pleading with the agency to “take all actions necessary to abate the endangerment presented by lead in Flint’s drinking water and to inform Flint residents about the potential hazards of drinking the City’s tap water.”
  • For more than ten years, EPA has failed to meet important deadlines for finalizing regulations associated with the SDWA.
    • EPA has prioritized finalizing ideologically driven rules like Waters of the United States and the Clean Power Plan over protecting drinking water.


  • To examine the ongoing situation in Flint, Michigan.
  • To review the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan.


  • Prior to April 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan received its drinking water from the City of Detroit’s system.
  • In the months following the switch, the Flint River water began testing high in chloride levels, which caused it to be highly corrosive.
    • One serious effect of corrosion is that it causes water pipes made of lead to leach into the water.
    • Furthermore, the water tested positive for disease-carrying bacteria.
    • Reports indicated that the EPA, which has oversight over state and local water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act, had known about contamination as early as June of 2015, detailed in an internal EPA memo.
  • EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman announced her resignation effective February 1, 2016 and the EPA Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the crisis.
  • The Committee previously examined mismanagement at the EPA with hearings held April 30 and July 29 in 2015.


Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): “It’s important for the EPA to tell the public that they’re poisoning their kids if they drink the water. … They sat on that for almost a year.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC): “We have a reoccurring theme here. We have unbelievable regulations, but the EPA does not enforce its regulations.”

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA): “I don’t know, Mr. Chairman, that there’s been more of a catastrophe in government handling of an issue since Hurricane Katrina. This is absolutely a train wreck in every way and EPA is so far behind not doing their job.”

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
The Hon. Dan Kildee Representative (MI-5) U.S. House of Representative 1
Mr. Joel Beauvais Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2 Document
Mr. Keith Creagh Director, Department of Environmental Quality State of Michigan 2 Document
Mr. Marc Edwards Charles P. Lundsford Professor of Environmental and Water Engineering Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 2 Document
Ms. LeeAnne Walters Flint Resident 2

Related Documents

Name Document
High Lead Levels in Flint, MI - Interim Report Memorandum Document
Hedman Email Document
April 27 - No Corrosion Email Document
EPA Safe Drinking Water Petition Document
Letter from American Federation of Government Employees Document