The director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s region covering Michigan has resigned over the Flint water crisis. Citing an EPA statement, NBC News reports that the agency’s Region 5 administrator, Susan Hedman, has tendered her resignation effective February 1, on account of her “strong interest in ensuring that EPA Region 5’s focus remains solely on the restoration of Flint’s drinking water.”
According to her profile on the EPA website, Hedman was appointed to lead Region 5 — which covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin — in 2010 after serving as environmental counsel in the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
The crisis in Flint, Michigan — a poverty-stricken, majority-black city of about 100,000 people — began in 2014 when the newly appointed emergency city manager decided to stop taking water from Detroit and source water from the Flint River instead. Residents complained that the water had a strange smell and color, but nothing was done about it until October, when officials acknowledged that children were suffering from the effects of lead poisoning at a higher rate than when the city was using Detroit’s water. It turned out that the water had not been treated properly and was leaching lead from the city’s pipes.
Emails released by Michigan governor Rick Snyder earlier this week revealed that the state government had known about the problem and dismissed it. The House Oversight Committee announced on Thursday that it would hold a hearing on the crisis.
NBC also reported that the EPA issued an emergency order on Thursday instructing the city and state to “take a series of immediate steps to address the drinking water contamination in Flint.” Local and national organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Civil Liberties Union had been pushing the EPA to invoke its emergency powers in Flint since October.
“The failure to act on it was bizarre and unacceptable,” Henry Henderson, director of the NRDC’s Midwest program, told NBC. “This action today reflects different thinking.”