State and local officials still are not doing enough to fix problems that caused lead pollution of drinking water in Flint, including having enough qualified workers to make sure the city water system functions adequately, a federal regulator said Friday.
Mark Pollins, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Water Enforcement Division, said some progress had been made toward complying with an emergency order EPA issued Jan. 21 in response to the crisis. But “significant issues” remain that need “immediate attention” to safeguard the public water supply in the city of nearly 100,000, he said.
Flint has missed by two weeks a deadline for showing that its water system has enough competent staffers, Pollins wrote in a letter to Keith Creagh, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, and other officials. Pollins also said the city and state have yet to finish a plan for preventing additional pipe corrosion, which enabled lead to contaminate some residents' tap water.
Melanie Brown, spokeswoman for the state agency, said it was reviewing the letter and would respond.
City officials did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Flint switched its drinking water source from Detroit, which draws from Lake Huron, to the Flint River in April 2014 as a temporary cost-saving measure. The city planned to join another system that also would tap Lake Huron, but its pipeline had not been completed.
Flint did not treat the river water with anti-corrosion chemicals, allowing the corrosive river water to scrape lead from aging pipes. The city returned to the Detroit system last October, but residents were exposed to lead-tainted water for 18 months.