Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged six additional current and former Michigan employees in the Flint water crisis. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services workers Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller, and Robert Scott and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Liane Shekter-Smith, Adam Rosenthal, and Patrick Cook face 18 criminal charges.
Attorney General Bill Schuette and Todd Flood, the Royal Oak attorney heading Schuette’s investigation, held an 11:30 a.m. news conference at U-M Flint to fulfill the promise he made in April that further felony charges were coming over the lead poisoning that affected the residents of Flint, Michigan. According to the Detroit Free Press, nine people have been criminally charged with misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty, and various conspiracy counts in connection with the Flint public health crisis.
One city employee, Flint utilities administrator Mike Glasgow, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor — willful neglect of duty — in May, and his cooperation with the investigation has lead to a felony count of tampering with evidence being dropped. DEQ employees Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby are awaiting preliminary examinations for tampering with test results, misconduct, conspiracy, and violations of the clean-water law. The investigation is ongoing, and Attorney General Bill Schuette is determined to find those responsible for the public health crisis.
“When we look at the scope these cases, you don’t start at the top. We’re starting to work our way up… and we’re expanding the investigation… Nobody’s off limits.”
The 18-month lead poisoning of the Flint Water supply affected 100,000 residents, primarily poor African Americans. The water contamination began in April 2014, when a state-appointed emergency manager wanted to save money by switching the tap supply to the Flint River from the treated water supplied by Detroit while a new pipeline was installed. The raw water wasn’t treated for corrosion control and dangerous levels of lead from aging pipes seeped into the water the residents and businesses depended on. Governor Rick Snyder admitted wrongdoing and apologized for any regulatory failures, but the state made the excuse that the environmental agency wasn’t required to add anti-corrosion chemicals until after a year of testing.
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In addition to containing high levels of lead and a disinfectant byproduct, the lead-tainted discolored water produced a horrible odor and produced an unpleasant after-taste. It is suspected that a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was due to the contaminated water, and General Motors (GM) believes the Flint water supply switch rusted engine parts, leading the plant to stop using the water because of corrosion, according to Automotive News.
“Some people failed to act, others minimized harm done and arrogantly chose to ignore data, some intentionally altered figures… and covered up significant health risks,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said at today’s news conference.
ABC News reports that Shekter-Smith, the former head of the state’s drink water office, made a court appearance in December with her lawyer to assert her constitutional right against self-incrimination before she was ever charged with a crime. She was reassigned when the Flint water crisis came to light, and the ongoing investigation led to her firing in February.
Engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam and environmental consultant Veolia North America are facing multi-million dollar civil suits brought on by Attorney General Bill Schuette for negligence and assisting in making the problem worse. Both companies have denied any wrongdoing.
Flint tap water is safe, according to federal experts, if it is filtered but bottled water is still recommended for pregnant women and children under five. The attorney general’s investigation into how many people are criminally responsible for the Flint water crisis is ongoing.
[Photo by Seth Perlman/AP Images]