Citizens of Flint, Michigan. have for years suffered the deadly effects of lead poisoning due to the negligence of Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and top state health officials.
Those citizens might now finally be receiving the attention they deserve.
On Wednesday, Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette charged five current and former government officials with involuntary manslaughter for their alleged role in the ongoing water crisis.
Charged were Nick Lyon, head of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services; Darnell Earley, former Flint emergency manager; former Flint Water Department manager Howard Croft; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality drinking water head Liane Shekter-Smith; and water supervisor Stephen Busch.
If convicted, each faces a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years.
For decades, Flint paid Detroit to pipe its water from Lake Huron and add anti-corrosion chemicals. In 2014, in an attempt to cut costs, Gov. Snyder-appointed emergency city managers, who transferred Flint’s water source to the polluted Flint River.
Consequently, water began leaching lead into homes from old pipes. Almost immediately, residents began complaining about the smell and rashes they suffered after bathing. Doctors reported elevated lead levels in children.
Experts concluded an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease was likely linked to Flint’s water supply, and between June 2014 and November 2015, at least 87 residents of Genesee County contracted the disease, which has claimed at least 12 people since 2014.
“[But] did not notify the public until a year later. [He] willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.”
Lyon is reported to have said:
“[We] can’t save everyone…everyone has to die of something.”
Attorney general Schuette’s office alleges Lyon was personally briefed on the Legionnaires’ outbreak in Genesee County, where figures suggested the number of Legionnaires’ cases exceeded three times the annual average. Lyon allegedly also refused assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and impeded scientists’ research into whether the spike in Legionnaires’ cases was related to the city’s Flint River source.
According to a press release from Schuette’s office, state chief medical officer Dr. Eden Wells was charged with obstruction of justice.
Investigators accused Wells of threatening to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if it did not stop inquiring about the Legionnaires’ genesis. She also was charged with lying to an officer when she became aware of increasing Legionnaires’ cases.
Mona Hanna-Attisha is a Flint doctor who publicized test results that showed the increase in high blood-lead levels in the city’s children. She said Wednesday, regardless of charges, Wells was instrumental in coercing top state officials into acknowledging the mounting disaster after they initially dismissed its severity.
“I do want to remind everyone that after my research went public, and the state went after me, Dr. Wells was critical in getting her colleagues in the Snyder administration to finally understand and respond to the gravity of the crisis. Restorative justice and accountability are critical to the journey toward healing Flint.”
A task force started in early 2016 to probe the crisis. Since then, Attorney General Schuette has filed more than 50 criminal charges against 15 state and local officials, many of whom now face multiple felonies, in addition to civil suits against independent contractors that worked with the Flint water system.
Today, Flint residents are still urged to consume and bathe with filtered tap water. However, many residents are opting for bottled water, citing false past assurances.
Watch this video for more information about the charges filed against Flint officials:
Watch this video for more information about the crisis itself:
Featured Image: Screenshot Via YouTube Video.