'Part 1984. Part Enemy of the People': Flint Residents Share Outrage on Capitol Hill

The people of Flint on Wednesday carried their outrage and heartbreak from Michigan to Washington, D.C., where they described to a congressional panel how the officials charged with protecting their families were responsible for turning their homes into a toxic “ground zero.”

The situation in Flint is “surreal. It’s part 1984. It’s part Enemy of the People,” Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards told the U.S. House Oversight Committee. Edwards, who helped expose the lead-tainted water crisis, explained how state and federal agencies blatantly disregarded science and ultimately failed to protect the children in that community, and elsewhere.

In the first such congressional hearing on the Flint crisis, the committee has been charged with investigating the events leading up to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s late-January decision to issue an emergency order.

LeAnne Walters, a Flint mother whose lead-tainted water was the first tested by outside researchers, described her home as “ground zero” in the crisis. Walters said that the “city and the [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality] still told everyone the water was safe as the EPA sat by in silence,” calling it the “ultimate betrayal of citizens.”

“This is not a Flint problem or a rare anomaly,” she added, “it is a national problem.” According to her research, only 10 states accurately test water for lead.

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Interspersed amid personal testimony from affected citizens, who lined the halls and packed an overflow room, state and federal officials were grilled about the heightened lead levels in the city’s water supply—and when they knew it.

The Detroit Free Press, which is live-blogging the hearing, reports: