As the Republican presidential candidates debated in Des Moines, Iowa Thursday night, toxic water was still coming out of the pipes in Flint, Michigan. Top state officials have so far escaped accountability for delaying their response and sitting on knowledge of the problem for months. While most of the national attention has been focused on the Michigan city’s water crisis, a city in Ohio is facing similar problems because its public officials ignored warning signs suggesting its tap water wasn’t safe to drink.
When asked about the Flint water crisis during the debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) launched into a lecture about how the Michigan government should respond to the situation.
“You have to be on top of it right away,” he responded. “I know people are being held accountable, but the fact is every single engine of government has to move when you see a crisis like that.”
He added that “when you see a problem, you must act quickly to get on top of it.”
But when the same problem manifested in his own state, Kasich has not been quick to respond. It’s been two months since the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency first identified excessive levels of lead in the town of Sebring’s public water system. However, Sebring residents were only told of the contamination last week.
Watch Kasich’s response:
Still, Kasich wasn’t afraid to tout his ability to respond to other crises in his state.
“I’ve had many situations in the state of Ohio where we’ve had to move, whether it’s storms, whether it was a horrible school shooting,” he continued. “There are many crises that come. The water crisis in Toledo. You’ve got to be on top of it and go the extra mile. You have to work with local communities and the federal government. Because you realize that people are depending on you.”
Other officials in Sebring have admitted that their response was delayed. Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler told the Daily Mail: “It has become apparent that our field office was too patient in dealing with the village of Sebring’s ‘cat and mouse’ game and should have had closer scrutiny on the water system meeting its deadlines.”
Kasich has yet to comment publicly on the issue in Sebring, but a spokesperson for the governor said that Kasich has received regular briefings on the matter.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has come under fire — including in a class-action lawsuit — from Flint residents for his slow response to the crisis. Far from being fully transparent, Snyder has released a heavily redacted and apparently incomplete set of emails relating to the contamination problem. The EPA has called the state’s response to the crisis “inadequate” and lawmakers are still attempting to secure more aid for the city’s residents. On Thursday, the state legislature signed off on $28 million in emergency state spending for Flint requested by Snyder, years after the contamination problems began.