Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence calls for congressional oversight hearing on Flint water crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior, announced her formal request to Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis for a hearing on the public health crisis of high concentrations of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan.
“We trust our government to protect the health and safety of our communities, and this includes the promise of clean water to drink and clean air to breath,” Ranking Member Lawrence said. “Unfortunately, the people of Flint have had their trust violated. This public health crisis was caused by state and local officials, who made tragically bad decisions with the drinking water of Flint. Congressional oversight is needed to set things right, on behalf of the people of Flint and on behalf of future generations. Anything less than that would demonstrate gross negligence in providing the services that our constituents need and deserve.”
In the letter requesting the hearing, Lawrence expressed concern that evidence shows that local and state government officials knew, or should have known, about the risks to human health posed by their decision to end its 50 year contract with Detroit for drinking water and enter into a new contract to receive water from the Flint River. Within a year of the new contract, multiple researchers -- including the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) -- found carcinogens and lead in the water. On January 5, 2016, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint and Genesee County and finally switched back to Detroit Water.
“It is estimated that thousands of children in Flint have been exposed to lead-tainted water, even after parents were assured it was safe,” Lawrence said. “This was all done to save a few dollars. In Detroit, we are engaged in an air quality war, and yet, the MDEQ has remained silent about a company’s proposal to release additional pollutants into our atmosphere. Detroit children struggle with the highest rate of asthma among America’s 18 largest cities. Our local and state government’s failure to address the Flint water crisis and other health hazards not only impacts the immediate health of these innocent children, but it can also lead to lasting and irreversible harm. This includes a range of learning, physical, and behavioral disabilities. This is unacceptable.”
Ranking Member Lawrence has been working on this issue extensively. She has met with the Environmental Protection Agency and the MDEQ on this issue, and she is working with House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Dan Kildee to address the lack of environmentally sound infrastructure throughout Metropolitan Detroit and the state of Michigan.
“The situation in Flint represents a crisis of leadership on all levels, and we must ensure that we take the appropriate steps to ensure that similar situations do not occur elsewhere,” Lawrence continued. “This hearing should examine the actions of key decision-makers who played a role in the development of this completely avoidable crisis.”