The Flint water crisis began in 2014, when the city switched its water supply from Detroit-supplied Lake Huron water to their own source in the Flint River. Three years later, the problem has still not been solved. As of this week, the Environmental Protection Agency gave Flint $100 million to help repair the city's water infrastructure. You could argue that it's too little and/or too late, but really it's proof that the EPA needs to exist, according to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, one of the key whistleblowers in the crisis.
Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician, was named to TIME magazine's list of the 100 most influential people for her work on the crisis. She told the Huffington Post on Tuesday that this is just the beginning. "We will only see more Flints to come with the Trump administration," Hanna-Attisha said. She has a really good point — especially if the Trump Administration is successful in hobbling the EPA.
Currently, the president's rough budget would cut the agency's funding by 31 percent and entirely eliminate programs that clean waterways (cough, Flint, cough). This isn't the only possibility — problems with drinking water might go unnoticed without the EPA. The city might just be getting money from the federal government now, but it was the EPA who first found lead in the city's water.
It took a complaint from a local resident to the government agency to get a comprehensive test. The local officials, obsessed with saving money, were hellbent on using the cheaper water — even after concerns arose. Nearly 10 months passed before the results of the first EPA test came out. Then another followed with even higher lead concentration.
Only after the EPA's involvement did the local city council vote to stop using the river water and revert to the Detroit-supplied lake water. But the state-appointed manager ignored that vote and kept using the contaminated water source, exposing children, pregnant women, and everyone else in Flint to lead exposure for eight more months.
EPA awards $100 million to upgrade Flint water system https://t.co/jSSb61P2En— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 17, 2017
So as you can see, the EPA doesn't need its budget cut; it needs more resources to prevent this sort of tragedy. That's something that Hanna-Attisha gets. She told the Huffington Post that she was in Washington, D.C. last month at the same time as Trump's head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt (who has for years fought against the agency he now heads).
Hanna-Attisha said she explained the importance of preventing another Flint, and Pruitt's response was all about infrastructure and replacing pipes. "I said that [replacing America’s lead pipes] will take decades, and until then we need to tighten regulations. He went back to infrastructure," she explained to the the website.
Unfortunately, there's no sign that the Trump administration gets any of this. The EPA doled out the money this week, but the funds were originally earmarked for Flint as part of the Water Resources Development Act, which was passed by the Senate in September and signed into law by former President Obama in December.
To prevent future Flints, preserving the EPA is the very least Trump could do. Giving it more regulatory power would be even better.