EPA Conducting Civil Rights Investigation on Flint Water

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By Rachel Leven

Nov. 2 — The Environmental Protection Agency has begun investigating whether state or local officials discriminated against Flint, Mich., residents in actions related to the city’s drinking water crisis.

The federal agency wants to know whether Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, Genesee County and the city of Flint discriminated or had a discriminatory impact based on race, color, national origin or disability in notifying residents of the contamination in their tap water. Investigators will review whether government officials failed to implement procedures to comply with non-discrimination requirements.

The city of 100,000 has been reeling from lead contamination in its water supply after a state-appointed emergency manager approved switching the community’s water supply from Detroit’s utility to the Flint River in April 2014. The city, state and federal government have been working to address the problem for at least a year, but the EPA still recommends Flint residents use filters for their water.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

The EPA has come under pressure to investigate the Flint water crisis under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits entities that receive federal funding from discriminating or having a discriminatory impact based on race, color or national origin. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and other critics claim the EPA’s Title VI program has been lax in its enforcement of civil rights law.

The EPA previously confirmed to Bloomberg BNA that it had received two water-related, Flint-centered complaints, and that it was considering whether to accept the complaints for investigation. The EPA formally accepted one complaint on Aug. 23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Leven in Washington, D.C., at rleven@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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