Flint water crisis: Resigned EPA official defends actions on lead contamination

The official said she resigned because of "false allegation" that portrayed her as standing by during the crisis.

A former Environmental Protection Agency official who resigned as the Flint, Michigan water crisis unfolded has defended her actions, saying she did everything allowed by law.

Susan Hedman told a congressional panel that the enforcement options afforded the EPA in the Safe Drinking Water Act meant she was constrained in what she could do to help reverse the lead contamination, the Washington Post reported. She said the drinking water act gives states the legal authority to act on drinking water regulations, not the EPA.

"And while I used the threat of enforcement action to motivate the state and city to move forward, we found that the enforcement options available to us were of limited utility last fall, due to the unique circumstances of this case," Ms Hedman told the congressional committee.

Ms Hedman, who resigned in February, said she stepped down due to "false allegations" that made it seem like she was doing nothing as the degree of contamination in Flint's water supply became known.

The lead contamination occurred after Flint switched its water source from Detroit's system to the Flint River in 2014 to save the impoverished city money. Water from the Flint River had not been treated and it leached lead from antiquated pipes, bringing it into homes and businesses in the city.

Children in Flint who have been tested have shown elevated levels of lead in their blood, which can cause learning disabilities and other problems. Flint residents have been required to use bottled water to cook, drink and bathe since the contamination was made public.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who has widely been blamed for the crisis, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will appear before the congressional panel on Thursday.

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