Five officials who were involved in the Flint, Michigan water fiasco have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. The charges, which were filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, include Michigan health chief Nick Lyon, water chiefs Liane Shekter-Smith and Stephen Busch, and Flint water managers Darnell Earley and Howard Croft. If convicted, each could face up to 15 years in prison.
The city of Flint and its unsafe water system came into the national spotlight in 2014 when the city was found to have poisoned over 100,000 residents with water that contained hazardous levels of lead. Flint officials had decided to change its source of city water to water from the Flint River so that they save money. The river water was highly corrosive, causing old lead pipes to leach harmful chemicals into the city’s drinking water.
As if that were not bad enough, a deadly case of Legionnaires disease was spread through the water system at around the same time. Health officials, including Lyon, knew about the outbreak for over a year and did not report it. Flint resident Roger Skidmore, age 85, died after contracting the disease in December of 2015. According to the Attorney General’s office,
The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system. [Mr. Lyon] deliberately failed to inform the public.
Lyon is also accused of “repeatedly attempting to prevent an independent researcher from looking into the cause of the outbreak”.
Michigan residents, who have been poisoned and lied to by their government leaders for years, were skeptical that these charges would stick.
This is a great start, but I’ll be shocked if they actually face jail time.
— Jen Ann Geuse (@JenAnnGeuse) June 14, 2017
this is a ploy US authorities use to get people off. They maximise the charges to ensure they’ll walk scot free.
— Sandra Duffy (@SandraDuffy123) June 14, 2017
And some felt that the charges were not severe enough..
It should be murder. They knew what they were doing and didn’t care.
— Molatov Bubblebath (@MolatovBubble) June 14, 2017
We would have to agree. These officials were charged with ensuring the safety of the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of citizens, and upon finding out that the water was not safe they lied and covered it up. Mr. Skidmore lost his life as a direct result of their inaction, and the long-term effects of lead on the thousands of children who were exposed will not be fully known for years. We hope that the State of Michigan ensures the assholes responsible are held accountable for their actions and hopefully, the next person to be charged will be the Republican governor, Rick Snyder.