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Oversight Committee to EPA on Flint: 'You screwed up'

"There's a special place in hell for actions like this."

By Andrew V. Pestano
Oversight Committee to EPA on Flint: 'You screwed up'
The House Oversight Committee sharply criticized officials linked to the Flint, Mich., water crisis, in which 12,000 children are believed to have been exposed to the water contaminated with lead. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- The chairman of the House Oversight Committee sharply condemned the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency for its role in the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

"You screwed up, and you ruined people's lives," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told former EPA administrator Susan Hedman on Tuesday.

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During opening testimony she said the EPA had "nothing at all to do" with Flint's toxic water crisis although she was in charge of the agency's Midwest region. The committee further criticized Hedman's inability to quickly take responsibility for the crisis.

Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said that "there's a special place in hell for actions like this," while Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told Hedman: "I'm glad you resigned."

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Former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley said he feels he has been unfairly characterized by the ordeal.

"I believe that I have been unjustly persecuted, vilified, and smeared -- both personally and professionally-- by the media, local, state and federal officials," Earley said during opening testimony.

Earley underscored the fact that the decision to use the river was made before he was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in October 2013 -- and that he was even assured by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that it was safe to do so.

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"I think this hearing is going to be known as the great finger-pointing hearing," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said in response to the opening testimonies.

When Earley said he was "not a water treatment expert" when speaking about the lead-contamination crisis, Cummings said "you don't have a to be a water treatment expert! A 5-year-old could figure that out!"

Following the water crisis, Snyder has been called on to resign by officials including Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

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Lead toxicity is dangerous for children because it can interfere with the development of the brain and nervous system, and carries other health risks for many organs and systems -- some of which may not be apparent for years after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials have estimated that up to 12,000 children have been exposed to the contaminated water.

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