In an ongoing investigation, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has announced criminal charges against four more government officials in connection with the Flint water crisis, bringing the total number of former or current officials charged in the scandal that has made national headlines to 13.
The individuals charged this week face multiple charges including false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office, and willful neglect of duty in office, all of which are felonies with the exception of the willful neglect count. If found guilty in a court of law under the more serious felony charges, the four officials could wind up in jail for up to 20 years and could be hit with thousands of dollars in fines.
To date, Schuette has filed a total of 43 criminal charges in the Flint water contamination investigation. The first round of criminal charges from the AG’s office occurred in April and the second in July. Some of the previously charged officials have already entered in plea bargains, while other cases are on the docket for a court trial.
This all got started when, in an effort to save money in the financially strapped city located about 70 miles north of Detroit with a population of about 100,000, the Flint water supply in April 2014 was switched from Detroit’s Lake Huron (after a 50-year relationship) to the Flint River by order of the state, as Natural News previously reported.
“The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from city pipes into the drinking water,” Reuters noted about what developed into a public health crisis.
Residents began noticing that the water had a different smell and taste and was brown in color. City and state officials insisted that the water was safe, however, even though Virginia Tech researchers determined that it contained dangerous lead levels. In October 2015, the city reverted back to getting its water from Lake Huron.
A class action lawsuit brought by several Flint families alleges that locals suffered lead poisoning and other medical conditions and that the state Department of Environmental Quality failed to treat Flint River water with an inexpensive anti-corrosive agent that federal law requires.
Two of those criminally charged this week were state-appointed emergency managers allegedly overseeing the switch to the Flint River for the city’s drinking water.
“Prosecutors allege that the emergency managers conspired with two Flint employees…to enter into a contract under false pretenses that bound the city to use the river for its drinking water, even though the local water plant was in no condition to properly deliver safe water to residents. Even after the officials were told repeatedly that the Flint water department wasn’t ready to make the switch in 2014 and that the city should keep getting its water from Detroit, investigators say [the emergency managers] pushed the change forward in a bid to save money. The decision ultimately exposed children and other residents to lead-tainted water and resulted in the death of a dozen people from Legionnaire’s disease,” the Washington Post explained.
“The crisis in Flint was a casualty of arrogance, disdain and a failure of management. An absence of accountability. We will proceed to deliver justice and hold those accountable who broke the law,” Schuette, who also separately suing two water engineering firms in civil court for alleged professional negligence and fraud, declared.
Although Flint resumed piping in its water from Detroit as well as its citizens receiving bottled water, the results of this failure of multiple levels of government could be irreversible. Especially with children, toxicity could result in lower IQs, developmental delays, and learning difficulties, apparently some of the known symptoms of lead poisoning.