Five health officials in Flint, Mich., are being charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with contamination of the city’s water that caused 14 deaths.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced last week that he charged Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, as well as Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch, for their alleged failure to act in the Flint Water Crisis.
Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or a $7,500 fine.
The water crisis began in 2014 when the drinking water source for the city of Flint was changed to the Flint River. Insufficient water treatment exposed more than 100,000 residents to high levels of lead. Residents were ordered to use bottled or filtered water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing.
As of 2017, lead pipes are being replaced in Flint with an expected completion of replacement in 2020.
Schuette released the initial results of a more than yearlong investigation into the water crisis. Included in the report is a look at today’s and past charges made, as well as a review of the facts and evidence in the case.
The crisis has been labeled by many as an act of environmental racism. Approximately 60 percent of Flint residents are African-American. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights released a report stating that racism played a role in causing the Flint water crisis.
“Policy makers, government leaders and decision makers at many levels failed the residents of Flint,” said Agustin Arbulu, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “By not challenging their assumptions, by not asking themselves the tough questions about how policy and decisions play out in different communities, especially communities primarily made up of people of color, those decisions and actions—or in some cases, lack of action—led to the tragedy taking place in Flint.”
Lead-tainted service lines at 861 homes have been replaced so far in Phase 4 of an initiative launched by Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. The work is part of her plan to replace lead-tainted pipes at 6,000 Flint homes in 2017.
“I’ve said from the very beginning, anyone who had a part in the man-made water disaster that occurred in the City of Flint needs to be held accountable,” Weaver said. “The deaths that happened because of Legionnaires’ disease have been yet another tragedy the people of Flint have been faced with as a result of the water crisis.”
Earlier this week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced it is offering an assistance program for people who have been affected by the Flint water crisis. The program is for Flint residents who don’t have Medicaid, Healthy Michigan Plan or MIChild.