U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials on Tuesday denied reports the agency will close the office in Chicago that oversees regional environmental protection efforts including the Flint, Michigan drinking water clean-up and Great Lakes restoration. The EPA sent officials to the city to test the water of the homes near the Superfund site and found that not only were there high levels of lead in the tested homes, but that the contamination was likely city-wide problem; lead pipes and water that had been improperly treated for decades were the culprits.
But an EPA official told CNN the initial report saying the agency is considering shutting down the Chicago office is false.
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"The reason I'm here is because it's important that we restore confidence for the people here in this community that we're going to get it right", Pruitt said during a news conference.
Michelle Robinson, director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said EPA was favoring industry over science. "At this time, our discussions have not veered into the subject of an office closure". But other stories have said the agency has been instructed to eliminate two of its regional offices.
They said they've only gotten "non-denials" in response. "Whatever the deficiencies of the Region 5 office, the folks there do play a critical role in protecting human health and the environment", Upton said in a statement.
After offering remarks about his visit, Pruitt was asked whether the EPA planned to close its Chicago office, but he walked away without answering. Administrator Scott Pruitt is headed to the Chicago area this week to discuss ways of cleaning up the area's Superfund site. The NAACP also called on Pruitt to keep the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice open.
"Seeing the face of the affected persons makes a difference".
During a news briefing in East Chicago, where he was flanked by several officials, including Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland (D), Pruitt emphasized that local, state and federal officials are coming to together to address the contamination issue in the city. Tara Adams, who is one of the last remaining residents of the West Calumet complex, says residents haven't received the attention they deserve.
The housing complex was built over land that had been used by lead and copper smelting companies for almost a century before being shut down in the early 50s.