Michigan’s high-profile environmental official tendered his resignation on Tuesday following the delivery of initial findings by an independent task force convened on the Flint water contamination issue — resulting in a prompt apology from Gov. Rick Snyder.
Director of the Department of Environmental Quality Dan Wyant specified on Tuesday the second agency upset in just over two months in connection with Flint’s lead-tainted drinking water crisis. The city has been beset by lead issues since the April 2014 switch to the Flint River as the water source.
A task force investigating the situation, appointed by Snyder, declared that it found the Department of Environmental Quality “primarily accountable for failing to guarantee safe drinking water in Flint.” Snyder accepted these initial findings and Wyant’s resignation. “I’ve decided that it’s appropriate to accept it,” he said, and then delivered an apology.
“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened,” Snyder said in a press release. “And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.”
“I know many Flint citizens are angry and want more than an apology. That’s why I’m taking the actions today to ensure a culture of openness and trust.”
A co-chair of Flint Water Advisory Task Force blamed the DEQ’s flat culture for Flint’s water contamination.
“Flint citizen were exposed to toxic points of the lead in their drinking water primarily because of a rigid practice of passive technical compliance that is just inadequate to the duty to public protection,” stated former state senator Ken Sikkema. “We also think that the indifferent and disrespectful attitude of the MDEQ’s response to the public concerns is not acceptable.”
Lead contamination can cause learning disabilities and may lead to seizures, coma, and or even death at high levels, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opined.
Wyant, however, did not pass any comment Tuesday. Wyant admitted in October that the DEQ erred in the application of the federal rule on lead and copper, designed to ensure safe drinking water for all residents. Late on Tuesday, DEQ’s spokesman Brad Wurfel also resigned.
Flint began drawing drinking water from the river without taking any corrosion controls measures to prevent lead in the old plumbing connections. The task force said the DEQ failed in the handling of Flint’s water problems.
Critics have increased pressure on the administration of Snyder to answer for Flint’s water problems in the last two years. Edwards feels that Wyant should not be the only one on the chopping block.
“I’m happy that someone feels sorry for the issue and someone is being held responsible,” Edwards added. “But Dan Wyant is at the top of my list — or even on my list. I strongly feel he was misled by the staff at every point, and thus, he was put in embarrassing situations publicly by the staff’s misinformation.”
In 2013, Flint decided to build a new regional water authority with hopes of saving money. Flint had attempted to negotiate lower rates with the former supplier, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, for long time, to little avail.
As the Karegondi Water Authority will not be completed until sometime in the next year, Flint decided to use the river to provide water during the interim period. That water turned out to be more corrosive than water from Lake Huron used by the Detroit system. Flint resumed supply from the Detroit system in October with pressure rising from toxic water samples and health researches.