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MDEQ director: Flint water crisis has shaken faith in government

Oct 13, 2015

MDEQ Director Dan Wyant, at the microphone, says no one, including himself, should lose their job over the Flint water crisis.
Credit State of Michigan / LiveStream

State and local officials have done an about-face when it comes to Flint's water crisis.

For months, residents and even experts who raised concerns about the water's safety were dismissed.

That's until mounting evidence – especially about high lead levels in kids – made the critics impossible to ignore.

But Michigan's top environmental regulator says no one should lose their job.

"I guess what is at issue is experience rather than wrongdoing," Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant told Stateside’s Cynthia Canty.

Wyant says he worries the Flint water crisis has caused people to lose faith in the state's ability to protect them.

“I do. I think trust is going to be a significant issue for us,” Wyant said. “The only way we build back trust is demonstrating that the water’s safe.”

Wyant also acknowledged that experts outside government who sounded the alarm – some of whom were discredited at the time by state officials – deserve credit for bringing the water problems to light.

"I think trust is going to be a significant issue for us. The only way we build back trust is demonstrating that the water's safe."

"And so if there was any disrespect or discredit for that I have to apologize and I have to take responsibility for that and so I am addressing it,” Wyant said. “Clearly this is a real issue."

But Wyant says his agency followed federal law when it comes to ensuring safe water.

“Those protocols were followed,” Wyant said. “What’s at issue is whether those protocols are appropriate.”

Wyant says the agency is committed to learning from what went wrong in Flint. But he says no one, including himself, should lose their job over what happened.

“What is at issue is experience, rather than wrongdoing,” Wyant said.

Problems with Flint's water system emerged shortly after the city switched from Detroit's system to the Flint River to save money in 2014.

The city is expected to return to Detroit water soon.

Click on the link above to hear the interview.