Special Report: Uncovering Flint – Could it happen here?

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — A growing number of people across the nation, and even here in Hampton Roads, have concerns over their drinking water.

Can you trust that the water you need to survive is really safe for you to drink?

We’ve watched the crisis in Flint unfold. Then in January, high levels of contaminants called PFC’s were discovered in the drinking water in Chesapeake at Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field.

Since then, there’s been one meeting after another to ease frustrations and calm fears. A class action lawsuit has been launched for families in Flint to seek justice. But for the people of Flint, those assurances weren’t enough.

“We’re all in danger because there’s this culture of corruption,” said Marc Edwards, Charles P. Lunsford professor of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at Virginia Tech.

“Until we get them to serve us, to serve the public, before serving their own interests … until we get them to stop sacrificing the truth to protect their reputation, we’re going to hear more and more cases all around the country.”

Edwards is the lead researcher for the Virginia Tech team being hailed as heroes for fighting for your health against incredible odds.

They are the ones who took one woman’s complaints in Flint to a laboratory, and uncovered a bombshell.

“I think what’s miraculous about Flint is not that it occurred, but that they got caught,” Edwards said.

What Edwards and his team discovered is eye-opening, and disturbing, to say the least.

Also residents should contact their local water utility for information on the quality of their water. Each utility is required to send to their customers a Consumer Confidence Report by July 1. You can find more info about it here, and after that they can have their water tested for lead, learn more information here.

The EPA has released the following statement to WAVY News about the Flint water crisis:

The EPA has been engaged in Flint since June of 2015, and has committed even more resources and funding since January 2016 to amplify outreach efforts on the ground in Flint.

i. EPA told Flint residents to get their water tested: Since July of 2015, EPA Region 5 encouraged Flint residents to contact their local water utility to have their tap water tested and provided information about steps that residents can take to limit lead exposure from drinking water.

ii. EPA Formed a Task Force: On October 16, 2015, EPA established the Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force to provide the Agency’s technical expertise through regular dialogue with designated officials from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Flint. The Task Force is led by the Region 5 Deputy Regional Administrator and is providing technical assistance to MDEQ and the City of Flint to implement corrosion control treatment and to develop school and residential sampling protocols.

iii. EPA Launched an Audit. In November, EPA began an audit of MDEQ’s drinking water program to examine MDEQ’s implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and related rules on lead and copper, total coliform, nitrates, and ground water. This comprehensive audit will provide Flint residents and the people of Michigan with more information about MDEQ oversight of public water supplies and will identify actions that may be needed to strengthen the Michigan drinking water program.

iv. POTUS Emergency Declaration / Interagency Response: On January 16, 2016, President Obama signed an emergency declaration ordering federal assistance to support state and local response efforts in Flint, Michigan. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was designated the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating federal government response and recovery efforts. The goal of the federal response is to help state and local leaders identify the size and scope of the problem, and work with them to make and execute a plan for mitigation of the short- and long-term health effects of lead exposure.

v. EPA Issued an Enforcement Order. On January 21, EPA issued a Safe Drinking Water Act Emergency Order to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver requiring that the State of Michigan and City of Flint to take a series of immediate steps to address the drinking water contamination in Flint. The Order requires that necessary information be promptly provided to the public in a clear and transparent way. To assure accurate, reliable and trustworthy information is available to inform the public and decisions about next steps, EPA will implement sampling and analysis of lead levels in the City of Flint’s public water system. EPA will publish these sampling results on its website to provide the public with better, more reliable information on ongoing efforts to abate the public health emergency in the City of Flint.

vi. Susan Hedman Resigned. On January 21, EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman offered her resignation effective February 1, and EPA Administrator McCarthy accepted given Susan’s strong interest in ensuring that EPA Region 5’s focus remains solely on the restoration of Flint’s drinking water.

vii. State Revolving Fund Announcement. On January 22, President Obama announced $80 million available from the water infrastructure state revolving fund allocated to the State of Michigan as part of the President’s enacted 2016 budget. The Administration has moved to ensure that money is available in Michigan immediately.

viii. EPA Continues to Conduct Sampling. Five EPA sampling efforts are testing/will test different aspects of Flint’s drinking water. Each effort involves collecting samples at locations throughout the city, and submitting them for analysis in an EPA laboratory. At the same time, EPA is also inspecting Flint’s drinking water system to determine the locations of lead service pipes. This information will help EPA understand where additional residential sampling may be needed.

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