Water pollution in the majority of Black Flint, Michigan is seen as an example of environmental injustice and racism.
Two former Michigan health officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of nine people who contracted Legionnaires’ disease during the Flint water crisis.
Prosecutors, re-examining how the city’s water system was contaminated with lead and bacteria, also hit a key adviser to ex-Governor Rick Snyder for extortion and perjury.
Snyder participated in a parade of former state and local officials who pleaded not guilty in Genesee County Courts. In a case filed Wednesday evening as the first governor or former governor in Michigan’s 184-year history, he is charged with willful neglect in Flint.
Details behind the charges were not disclosed in court. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Attorney General scheduled a press conference that morning.
The caustic water in Flint was not treated properly and led into homes from old plumbing [Rebecca Cook/AP Photo]62-year-old Snyder, who wore a mask, said little during his brief video interview. He replied, “Yes, your honor” when asked if he lived in Michigan. A conviction can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of US $ 1,000 upon conviction.
Defense attorney Brian Lennon called the case a “travesty”.
“These unjustified allegations are not helping to resolve a painful chapter in the history of our state,” Lennon said in a written statement. “Today’s actions only lead to outrageous political persecution.”
Former state health director Nick Lyon and former medical director Eden Wells were each charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Snyder, a Republican, was governor from 2011 to 2018. The former computer manager posed as a problem-solving “nerd” who avoided partisan politics and preferred online dashboards to show performance in government. Flint turned out to be the worst chapter of his two terms in office due to a series of disastrous decisions that will affect residents for years.
Melissa Mays was one of the first Flint residents to file a lawsuit about the damage the water crisis had caused her family [Paul Sancya/AP Photo]The date of Snyder’s alleged crime in Flint is April 25, 2014 when a Snyder-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who ran the struggling, black-majority town, made a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a pipeline dated Lake Huron was under construction.
However, the caustic water was not treated properly and lead into homes from old pipes.
Despite desperate pleas from residents holding pitchers of discolored, skunky water, the Snyder government took no significant action until a doctor reported increased lead levels in children about 18 months later.
Lead can damage the brain and nervous system and cause learning and behavior problems. Flint’s suffering was highlighted as an example of environmental injustice and racism.
Prosecutors charged Earley with misconduct in office. Rich Baird, a friend and close adviser to Snyder, has been charged with extortion, perjury and obstruction of justice. Jarrod Agen, who was communications director before working for Vice President Mike Pence, has been charged with perjury. He then left the government to work for a defense company.
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder attended a meeting between local and federal authorities and showed off damaged Flint pipes [Carlos Barria/Reuters]Authorities counted at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, including 12 deaths, during the water change. Some experts found that Flint’s water treatment system does not contain enough chlorine to fight Legionella, which can cause severe pneumonia when spread through fog and cooling systems.
It’s the second time Lyon and Wells have been charged with manslaughter, but the previous cases haven’t resulted in as many deaths. They were accused in 2017 of failing to warn the public in time about the outbreak, but the cases were dropped by prosecutors when they decided to re-examine evidence.
An involuntary manslaughter conviction results in a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of $ 7,500.