EPA head Scott Pruitt dismissed Thursday media-generated rumors that he will liquidate the regional office partially responsible for regulating Flint’s water source.
“There were media reports that Region 5 would be moved,” the EPA chief told the House Appropriations Committee. “We have no intention of moving the region, and I don’t know where these rumors originated.”
He was responding to rumors from East Chicago on April 14 that EPA’s Region 5 is on the verge of being disbanded and folded into the Midwest region.
Region 5 – which encompasses parts of Indiana and Michigan – was dealt body blows last year, when its former regional administrator, Susan Hedman, was forced resign over her handling of last year’s Flint water crisis.
Pruitt promised in May that the EPA would transition from fighting man-made global warming to acting as an auxiliary force helping local regions clean polluted areas.
EPA’s recent tour through Indiana City, East Chicago, “signals our renewed commitment to restore public trust by improving communication and coordination and delivering real solutions for protecting the health and public safety in the community,” Pruitt said in a joint press statement May 5.
Pruitt was discussing a small community in East Chicago where officials last summer began evacuating citizens from the West Calumet Housing Complex after they found some yards with lead levels more than 70 times the federal safety standard. There are nearly 50 people remaining in the housing complex.
The city was affected by contamination from a closed lead production facility owned by the firm U.S. Steel – East Chicago was designated a Superfund cleanup site by the agency in 2009.
Various Democrats and activist seized upon the rumors to criticize President Donald Trump. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for instance, used the rumor to trash climate skeptics in the Trump administration.
“[W]e cannot turn our back on the Great Lakes and allow the Trump administration to muffle the EPA,” Emanuel, a Democrat, said in a press statement in May addressing the rumors. He served as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
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