The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, is in Seattle this week. She’s giving the keynote address at this year's Climate Leadership Conference on Wednesday evening.
But earlier in the day, she also spoke to students and faculty at the University of Washington’s schools of public health and public policy. Her talk highlighted the Obama administration's work on climate change as well as her desire to get more young people and people of color involved in public service, especially at her agency.
She also responded to questions, including one about her concerns in the wake of the crisis in Flint, Michigan; where lead has been poisoning municipal water supplies. She said at its heart, more than anything, the crisis is about money.
“And what we know about Flint is that their problem isn’t just lead or lead lines or the corrosivity of the water. It’s the fact that the water system hasn’t been invested in in decades,” McCarthy said.
She said the EPA is working to help Flint on the local, state and federal levels. But she added that it’s not a unique problem. She says there are at least 10 million water lines in the United States that are in similar need of attention. And she estimates at least $600 billion of investments are needed to address all the issues in keeping public water supplies healthy in the US.
Right now, she says the federal government supports this effort to the tune of only about $2 billion.