During the CNN Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan on Sunday night, Hillary Clinton said she would launch an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency over its handling of the city’s water crisis.
Asked by debate moderator Anderson Cooper whether she would fire the head of the EPA over the agency’s handling of Flint’s lead-ridden drinking water, Clinton noted that EPA Region 5 Administrator Dr. Susan Hedman had already resigned, but said she would probe the agency further.
“I would certainly be launching an investigation — I think there already is one,” she said. “I would have a full investigation, determine who knew what, when. And yes, people should be fired. How far up it went, I don’t know.”
The EPA has taken significant fire for its handling of the lead contamination in Flint’s drinking water system. That’s because, long before the crisis was made public, an EPA employee sounded the alarm about a serious lead problem. But his higher-ups declined to make that information public.
Instead of making the information public, EPA officials tried a behind-the-scenes approach to get the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to take action. After the lead crisis erupted into public view and the EPA’s role was uncovered, EPA officials admitted the agency should have done more to alert the people of Flint to their drinking water woes.
Still, environmental advocates have said that the EPA has a history of waiting until it’s too late when it comes to lead, a highly poisonous neurotoxin that can permanently damage children’s brains. Last month, activists told ThinkProgress that EPA had a “longstanding pattern” of minimizing the risks of lead across the country.
The ongoing investigation Clinton likely referenced is one by three Republican Senators, all of whom have a history of bashing the EPA.