- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A U.S. House committee chairman leading hearings on the Flint water crisis sparked by lead contamination visited the city over the weekend, touring facilities, meeting officials and residents and calling for answers and accountability.

Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight panel, met with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on Saturday at the Flint water plant. He also attended a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency open house and was joined by Flint Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee and GOP Reps. Bill Huizenga, Tim Walberg and John Moolenaar.

Chaffetz said the “system totally failed and people need to be held accountable.”

“We better darn well understand how we got into this mess so that it never, ever happens again,” he said. “It’s really hard to comprehend how pervasive it is. I just can’t imagine my own family having to go through this for what will be years. We want to help. We want to do it in a bipartisan way. There’s plenty of fault to go around, but we want to hold people accountable.”

Weaver said she appreciated the visit and urged passage of a federal aid package for Flint. Senators from both parties reached a tentative deal last month for a $220 million package to fix and replace lead-contaminated pipes in Flint and other cities, but the bill remains on hold.



The visit precedes more hearings starting Tuesday, in which Gov. Rick Snyder, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and EPA chief Gina McCarthy are set to testify.

State and federal officials have been criticized for their inadequate response to the problems in Flint, which switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014 as a way to save money until a new pipeline to Lake Huron was ready. During those 18 months, the corrosive water leached lead from the city’s old plumbing because certain treatments weren’t added to the water.

No level of lead in the human body is considered safe, especially in children. The river water also may have been a source of Legionnaires’ disease, which killed at least nine people in the region.

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