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Representatives call for EPA Chief Gina McCarthy, Michigan governor to resign over Flint

"The EPA should have done more, they should have rushed in sooner to rescue the people of Michigan," Rep. Elijah Cummings said.

Several members of Congress called for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency to resign Thursday in a tense hearing over the Flint water crisis.

"The EPA should have done more, they should have rushed in sooner to rescue the people of Michigan from Governor Snyder's vindictive administration and his utter incompetence at every level," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

RELATED: Flint finally suspends water utility billing amid lead crisis

Both EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and the governor expressed remorse for the water crisis, but McCarthy said because it happened under a state-appointed emergency manager, "that precluded us from being able to jump in to the rescue."

"Wow. You just don't get it. You just don't get it. You still don't get it," a furious Rep. Jason Chaffetz responded, and asked her why she hasn't resigned over the public health emergency.

McCarthy said the agency was "misled," adding it shouldn't have been "so trusting of the state."

"What happened in Flint should not have happened and can never happen again," she said.

Snyder said he was misled about the water crisis for over a year.

"Not a day or night goes by that this tragedy doesn't weigh on my mind — the questions I should have asked, the answers I should have demanded," he said in prepared testimony.

Again and again. the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality insisted water from the Flint River was safe, Snyder said. It wasn't until Oct. 1, 2015 — nearly 18 months after the city started taking its water from the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure —that Snyder said he learned the water was contaminated.

"Let me be blunt. This was a failure of government at all levels," he told the hearing.

Snyder told Congress he then took immediate action: sealing damaged pipes, distributing water filters, and testing residents, particularly children, for high lead levels.

But that wasn't enough, argued Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pennsylvania.

"When people reported rashes, hair loss, odor and even sewage, your administration said the water was safe. When E. Coli and and fecal bacteria were found in the water and boiled water alerts were distributed, your administration said the water was safe," he said. "Governor, don't you have a moral responsibility to resign?

This is the second time in a week the congressional panel has drilled Michigan and EPA officials about Flint's water. Flint began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014.

Snyder's testimony comes after demands from Democrats to explain what part he played in the public health emergency. Many have called for him to step down.

In a hearing Tuesday, former city and federal officials placed the blame on each other, as a former EPA official who resigned over the water crisis defended the agency's actions.

McCarthy asked the committee Thursday what more the EPA could have done.

"We actually didn't understand or know the full extent of the problem until July of last year," she said.

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