Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Advocates say Dan Wyant's resignation from MDEQ isn't enough

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2015 at 12:26 PM

Dan Wyant, director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, submitted a resignation letter Tuesday following months of controversy surrounding Flint's poisonous water. 

Wyant, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to head the DEQ in 2011, gave his notice shortly before a Snyder-appointed task force announced findings that the DEQ was "primarily responsible for failing to ensure safe drinking water in Flint.”

Snyder — somehow absolved of responsibility through the Flint Water Advisory Task Force's findings — accepted the findings and Wyant's resignation. 

“I’ve determined that it’s appropriate to accept it," Synder said in a press release before adding, "I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened. And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure. I know many Flint citizens are angry and want more than an apology. That’s why I’m taking the actions today to ensure a culture of openness and trust.”

Those actions being: accepting the resignation of Wyant — his own appointee. 

But not all are buying it. 

Marc Edwards, one of the Virginia Tech researchers who led the "Flint Water Study" this past summer told the following the Detroit News: “I’m glad that someone is sorry and someone is being held accountable but Dan Wyant would not be at the top of my list — or even on the list. I feel strongly he was misled by his staff at every point, and he was put in publicly embarrassing situations by the staff’s misinformation.”

This feeling was reiterated in the Detroit News by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Hurley Medical Center pediatrician who pushed the Flint issue further into the limelight. In September Hanna-Attisha released the results of a second independent study that focused on lead levels in children. It is ultimately what made Lansing and Gov. Snyder admit there was in fact a problem and create the Flint Water Advisory Task Force. According to a Hanna-Attisha, "(Wyant) wasn’t directly involved. There are other people, particularly in (the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance), that need to take some responsibility. ... (Wyant) was a nice person being fed bad information."

In October, following Hanna-Attisha's independent report, Wyant announced that for 17 months his department had been using the wrong federal requirements to assess Flint's water. 

"What has become clear in recent weeks is that staff believed they were handling the situation in accordance with the proper protocol for a water provider using a new source, but ... they were not," an October statement from the department read. 

According to a November interview with Al Jazeera, Wyant moved the woman primarily responsible for Flint's water evaluations to a new position helping to field Freedom of Information Act requests. As Al Jazeera points out this is a bit of an odd re-assignement, considering many of the FOIA requests coming in have much to do, likely, with how the department fumbled on Flint. 

In the meantime, however, Snyder on Wednesday appointed Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh to serve as the interim DEQ chief. 

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