The FBI is on the hunt for lies as the Flint water crisis turns federal. Concerns are being raised on social media about the efficacy of the water filters netted out to Flint residents, and a U.S. Representative calls for $1 billion in surplus funds to be siphoned to the water crisis as calls mount for more money and involvement from federal agencies into investigating and replacing water infrastructure that’s been leaching lead into the water supply.
The FBI has joined with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, and the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in determining whether federal laws were broken in both the cause and management of the Flint water crisis that started when the water source was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Officials have been cagey about when the water investigation started and whether criminal or civil charges might follow.
Experts say it will be difficult to land criminal charges under current U.S. environmental laws with regard to water, and that investigators will be looking for something like proving someone knowingly made a false statement about the unfolding water crisis. To prove culpability, you need to prove more than just ineptitude.
“You need a lie,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor, to Reuters on Tuesday. “You need something that is false to build a case.”
As international outrage mounts over the handling of the water disaster in Flint, it’s been revealed that General Motors flagged the corrosive nature of the Flint River water source back before October 2014, and successfully demanded their water source be switched back from the Flint River to the glacial water catchment of Lake Huron. The Flint River water was so corrosive that it was rusting car parts, causing investigators to question why more concern wasn’t shown for the Flint’s domestic water supply.
Questions are also being asked on social media by Flint citizens concerned that the water filters are not working.
The latest head to roll in the fallout from the water disaster in Flint is Darnell Early, who was the state-appointed emergency manager for Flint when its water source was switched. He announced his resignation from his role in Flint’s troubled school district on Tuesday, four-and-a-half months early. He joins a raft of local, state, and federal officials who have resigned since it was revealed that lead levels in the tap water in Flint were at levels considered to be toxic waste. Lead causes learning disabilities and health problems.
Efforts to get federal funding stalled when it was deemed that the water crisis in Flint was not natural, but rather man-made, and therefore didn’t fall under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mandate for natural water disasters. U.S. Rep. Candice Miller on Tuesday has revived the issue, calling for Congress to grant $1 billion through the Environmental Protection Agency to help replace the dangerous water infrastructure in Flint.
“I realize that this is a lot of money. I am well aware of the limited federal resources we have, and I know that getting support for this will be very difficult, so I don’t want to give the residents of Flint false hope,” said Miller in a televised address. “This will be a tough fight, but I believe it is one that is absolutely necessary.”
Miller called herself “fiscally conservative” but said that culpability for the water crisis in Flint lay with the state of Michigan, but also with the EPA. “However, we cannot turn our backs on the citizens of Flint. These are American citizens, American children and American babies, and we must take care of our own.”
“Especially vulnerable to the high lead levels are a generation of children and babies — American children and babies — not from a different country. They are our children, who will pay the consequences.”
Check out Rep. Miller’s full statement about the Flint water crisis here, and her call to bring in $1 billion in Federal funds to fix Flint’s dangerous water infrastructure.
[Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images]