(CNSNews.com) - Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) called for the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s third hearing on the Flint water crisis.
“No one acted, and I heard calls for resignation. I think you should be at the top of the list,” Mica told McCarthy after grilling her over whether anyone was fired at the EPA. He asked whether she had the ability to act when she finds out “things aren’t going right in these systems.”
“You have the compliance authority under law, don’t you?” Mica asked.
“Yes, sir,” McCarthy replied.
When asked whether anyone was fired in the EPA as a result of the water crisis, McCarthy said, “No, sir.”
Former Region 5 EPA administrator Susan Hedman resigned in January over her handling of the crisis.
“In fact, what disturbs me,” Mica said, “I checked to see-- like Hedman who was in charge. She was underneath you as a regional administrator. She was getting vacation time bonuses – got the last one May 28th while—the regional administrator’s getting vacation time bonuses while the kids are getting poisoned. She finally resigned herself. You never fired anyone.
“You have great people working at EPA,” Mica said, referring to EPA Region 5 Regulations Manager Miguel Del Toral, who tested the water in Flint and issued a memo on June 24, 2015 warning that the lack of corrosion control methods resulted in high levels of lead in the drinking water after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River.
“This Mr. Del Toral should get a congressional gold medal. Mrs. Walters blew the whistle,” Mica said, referring to Flint resident Leann Walters, who alerted the mayor about her children being poisoned by lead in the water.
“She came to the local authorities. We had the mayor in here. She told me in March of 2015 she met the mayor at the library, and he promised to do everything. She went to city hall April 3rd or beginning of April, and no one would see her. She was put off, and to the day of the hearing the other day, the mayor had never talked to her after that,” Mica said.
“You can read Del Toral’s report. It’s incredibly accurate. This is dated in June, and not a damn thing was done until really, until January of this year, and I went back and asked Mrs. Walters. I said when did they finally come in? Because the mayor and others and your EPA administrator from the district said that, oh we acted immediately. They didn’t act,” Mica said. “They gagged Mr. Del Toral.
In a July 8, 2015 e-mail provided by the committee, Del Toral complained, “It almost feels like I’m to be stuck in a corner holding up a potted plant because of Flint. One mis-step in 27+ years here and people lose their minds.”
“Did you ever see this report?” Mica asked McCarthy.
McCarthy acknowledged that she had seen the report, but couldn’t remember “the exact day.”
“Well, sir if you’d let me answer, I might be able to—” McCarthy responded before being cut off again by Mica.
“They failed at the local level. They failed at the state level, and we failed at the federal level, and who’s in charge? The district head gets a vacation bonus. The kids get lead poisoned, and you’re still in office. Mr. Chairman, I yield back,” Mica said.
McCarthy asked for an opportunity to respond to Mica. She said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) told the EPA on April 24, 2015 that there was no corrosion control treatment, after telling the EPA prior to that it had done the treatment.
“I think it’s important to know that when we found out finally – because the MDEQ told us on April 24th prior to that that there was no corrosion control treatment, reversing what they had earlier told us that they did corrosion control in the system - that we had already told MDEQ that they actually had to require the city of Flint to move ahead with corrosion control treatment well in advance of that memo,” McCarthy said, “and we consistently said the same thing.
“That is a report on three homes in the same area,” McCarthy said regarding the Del Toral memo. “Because of the complexity of lead, we did not and could not have made a concerted judgment about whether it was a systemic problem.
“When we had the information, when we received it from MDEQ - which wasn’t until July 21st - we told them we’re done talking. We now know it’s a systemic problem. You do it or we’ll do it,” she said regarding the EPA’s instructions to MDEQ.
“They said we’ll do it,” McCarthy said, referring to the MDEQ, “and since that point and time, MDEQ slow walked everything they needed to do. That precluded us from being able to jump into the rescue.
“That is what happened, and if people are worried about whether we silenced Miguel, Miguel is a hero on this. He remains a central part of our decision-making. He’s one of our experts we rely on,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said it MDEQ which trying to discredit Del Toral, not the EPA.
“The simple fact is that MDEQ was the one who told everybody outside that he was rogue employee to discredit him, just as the MDEQ was doing – as the governor’s task force said in trying to discredit anybody who said there was a problem with that drinking water system. We were strong armed. We were misled. We were kept in arms. We couldn’t do our jobs effectively,” McCarthy said.
“You just don’t get it. You just don’t get it. You still don’t get it,” Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) responded.