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Flint, the Environment and Civil Rights

August 18, 2016

Bloomberg BNA

by David Schultz

Aug 17, 2016

After nearly eight months, the official presidential declaration of emergency in Flint, Mich., came to an end a few days ago. (Although things aren’t quite back to normal there—residents are still being told not to drink unfiltered tap water.)

With the benefit of a little distance, people in Flint and elsewhere are now beginning to think about who should be held accountable for one of the worst water quality crises in history.

As Bloomberg BNA reporter Rachel Leven found in a two-part series on environmental justice (which you can read here and here), some are pointing the finger at the actions—or, rather, the inaction—of the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights.

The office takes a notoriously long time to investigate complaints from the public, sometimes leaving cases open for decades.

Rachel found that at least one Flint resident submitted a civil rights complaint about water quality—though not specifically about lead—to the office in early 2015, several months before the scandal broke in the media. The Flint resident didn’t even receive an initial reply back from the office until more than a year later. It still hasn’t officially opened an investigation into the Flint crisis.

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