Former EPA official: Agency did nothing wrong in Flint

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A former regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Tuesday the agency did nothing wrong as lead contaminated the water in Flint, Mich.

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Under questioning from House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Energy: Obama signs chemical safety reform into law House caucus to focus on business in Latin America Freedom Caucus urges vote on impeaching IRS commissioner MORE (R-Utah), Susan Hedman told lawmakers, “I don’t think anyone at EPA did anything wrong, but I do believe we could have done more.”

"Wow,” Chaffetz replied.

Hedman was the administrator for the EPA’s Great Lakes region before she resigned in January.

She took the brunt of complaints from lawmakers and local experts that the EPA did not do enough to prevent the water crisis in Flint despite the agency knowing of the risk. Records show the EPA knew in early 2015 that Flint’s water had dangerously high lead levels, but it did not take formal action, beyond pushing Michigan officials to address the matter, until January 2016.

Hedman told lawmakers Tuesday that those allegations are “false.” She said the agency moved quickly to alert local officials about the corrosion problem before it developed into a crisis. Under state supervision, the city changed its water supply to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving move. But the water wasn't properly treated to travel through lead pipes, and the toxic metal leached into the supply.

“We did [act] as soon as I learned about this,” she said.

“I offered lead experts to the mayor and we reached out again to MDEQ [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality] and within three weeks we had reached an agreement that MDEQ would order Flint to issue corrosion control as soon as possible.”

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor and water quality expert, told the committee in response that “she did nothing to protect Flint’s children. Nothing.”

Tuesday’s hearing the first of two Oversight Committee meetings on Flint this week. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyDozens of senators push EPA for higher ethanol mandate The Hill's 12:30 Report Overnight Energy: Obama signs chemical safety reform into law MORE and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will testify on the matter on Thursday.