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Flint activists weigh in on DC water crisis hearings

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Congress may have grabbed headlines by grilling Governor Rick Snyder Thursday, but now those in Flint are asking: What really got done?

Snyder and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy testified in front of the House Oversight Committee, giving their versions of and explaining their culpability in the Flint water crisis.

But Flint activists Melissa Mays and Nayyirah Shariff were unhappy with what they heard. 

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham talked with the pair on Stateside.

Both said Thursday's hearing felt like political grandstanding, and didn't actually serve the people of Flint. 

"We need people at the center of the solutions," Shariff said. "In the middle of that hearing was political posturing." 

Mays said she wished members of Congress had spent less time bashing McCarthy and the EPA, and wondered why there were no representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the agency on the ground in Flint. 

"If you're going to rip apart one of the environmental agencies, why wasn't the one that was hands-on there?" she asked. "This is supposed to be about us, not your political agenda to dismantle the EPA."

Many noted the partisan nature of the questions Thursday, with Republican members of Congress berating McCarthy, while Democrats condemned Snyder. 

For Mays and Shariff, Snyder did not take enough ownership of the crisis.

"Governor Snyder's trying to shift the blame," Shariff said. "He consistently says that this was a 'failure at all levels of government.' There was only one level of government, and that was the emergency manager law in the city of Flint."

The activists were in Washington for the hearings with several Flint families. Mays said the fact that so many Flint residents traveled to the Capitol is a testament to how committed they are to curing their city.

"I hope that it shows the lawmakers that we are not backing down," she said. "We demand justice and we demand help with this disaster."

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