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Rick Snyder Says A Water Crisis Like Flint's Could Happen Anywhere

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 17/03/2016 Arthur Delaney
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WASHINGTON -- Though Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) admits that his government caused the Flint water crisis, he'll tell Congress on Thursday morning it's something that could happen anywhere that has lead pipes.

"The truth is, there are many communities with potentially dangerous lead problems," Snyder will say, according to the text of his testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

If the "dumb and dangerous" federal regulations of lead pipes don't change, Snyder says, "then this tragedy will befall other American cities."

Flint's water became poisonous in 2014 after Snyder's government oversaw a switch to the Flint River as the city's water source but failed to ensure its proper treatment.

"Not a day or night goes by that this tragedy doesn’t weigh on my mind ... the questions I should have asked ... the answers I should have demanded ... how I could have prevented this," Snyder says in his testimony. 

For nearly 18 months, Michigan officials dismissed Flint residents' complaints that their water looked and tasted bad, while also ignoring red flags raised by the state government officials. Snyder says he didn't figure it out until October, when the state finally told Flint residents not to drink from their taps because the lead levels in Flint kids' blood had shot up.

Small children exposed to lead -- even in small amounts -- can suffer permanent brain damage and behavioral problems. 

Federal Safe Drinking Water Act regulations require public water systems to add chemicals that reduce the corrosiveness of drinking water, since corrosive water can leach lead from lead pipes -- but the state misread the regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency, the law's top enforcer, said last fall that the requirements were ambiguous.

Snyder's partner at the witness table will be EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, whose testimony heaps almost all the blame for Flint on Snyder. 

"While EPA did not cause the lead problem, in hindsight, we should not have been so trusting of the state for so long when they provided us with overly simplistic assurances of technical compliance rather than substantive responses to our growing concerns," McCarthy says. 

McCarthy's testimony will likely draw some skepticism from both Republicans and Democrats on the oversight committee. At a Tuesday hearing featuring an EPA official who resigned amid Flint fallout, lawmakers criticized the agency for failing to act on warnings from one of its own scientists that Flint's water was unsafe. 

In calling out Safe Drinking Water Act regulations, Snyder is aligning himself with outside experts who last year fought his government to expose the dangerous lead levels in Flint's water, including Flint pediatrician Mona Hannah-Attisha and Virginia Tech corrosion expert Marc Edwards. Both have called for federal regulations to change so that public water systems act more aggressively to replace lead pipes, which currently carry water to millions of homes across America. 

In testimony before the committee on Tuesday, Edwards said the EPA should apologize for its role in Flint so the agency can be "worthy of the public trust and its noble mission. "

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