The Flint Water Crisis: The EPA Responds

Email a Friend
Flint residents Gladyes Williamson (C) holds a bottle full of contaminated water, and a clump of her hair, alongside Jessica Owens, holding a baby bottle full of contaminated water. Feb. 16, 2016
From and

Click on the audio player above to hear this interview.

There's a complicated web of laws and regulations governing and protecting water in the United States.

You might be surprised to know that the Clean Water Act—the primary law which governs water pollution in the U.S.—does not directly address groundwater contamination. Groundwater contamination actually falls under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies drinking water and infrastructure needs across the country, but state agencies are the first responders when it comes to concerns over the quality of drinking water in towns and communities.

We've seen this play out in Flint, Michigan. In the case of Flint, local leaders and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were slow to take responsibility for contamination of the city's water. The EPA eventually stepped in. The crisis has led to a series of resignations, though the fallout is far from over. 

Joel Beauvais is the deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Here, Joel explains how oversight and regulation work at the EPA, and who you should call if you have a water crisis. 

What you'll learn from this segment:

  • How the EPA sets water standards.
  • The role of the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.
  • What the government is doing about the crisis in Flint.