The Environmental Protection Agency region head who resigned over the lead water crisis in Flint, Mich., made a "courageous" decision, her former boss said Thursday.
Former EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman resigned her position at the beginning of the month, after reports surfaced that she directed one of her researchers not to speak about tests he did showing extremely high levels of lead in the drinking water at a Flint woman's home.
When those findings were brought to the regional EPA administrator, Susan Hedman, they were not released publicly. When the results were made public in June, Hedman apologized to state officials and emphasized that they were only a preliminary report.
She then directed the researcher who had been working in Flint to defer to state authorities and to no longer speak about what he found.
The public was not notified of lead in the water for nine more months, and she resigned on Feb. 1.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told the House Committee on Agriculture that she believed Hedman's decision to resign was courageous.
"Her explanation to me was that it was because she knew she had already become a focus of attention," McCarthy said. "And the focus had to be on what we do for the people of Flint. It was a courageous act on her part."
Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., the representative for the district next to Flint's district, criticized the EPA's role in the crisis.
He said the EPA has worked to put the blame on the state authorities, who the EPA contends were ultimately responsible for enforcing environmental regulations in Flint. Instead, the agency needs to take a long look at why it didn't do more to help the people of Flint, he said.
"EPA was aware of that and did nothing," he said. "And, we're almost a year later and EPA did nothing."