Five Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in Flint Water Crisis
The Michigan attorney general's office on June 14 charged five people, including the state's health department director, with involuntary manslaughter because they failed to alert the public and take steps to stop a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the early days of the Flint water crisis.
Nick Lyon, director of the state's Dept. of Health and Human Services; Howard Croft, former director of the city's public works department; Stephen Busch, former director of the state's Dept. of Water Quality for District 8; Liane Shekter-Smith, former chief of the state's Office of Drinking Water; and Darnell Earley, Flint's state-appointed emergency manager, were all charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Additionally, Attorney General Bill Schuette on June 14 released an interim report on his office's investigation into the Flint water crisis that says, "A cause of the breakdown in state governmental management was a fixation, a preoccupation, with data, finances and costs, instead of placing the health, safety and welfare of citizens first."
Since beginning the investigation Schuette has filed more than 50 criminal charges against state and local officials.
According to the attorney general's office, while those charged knew of the Legionnaires' outbreak, they failed to issue a public notice and "allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint's water system."
The outbreak occurred long before Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards and others highlighted dangerously high levels of lead in the city's drinking water supply, caused by a 2014 switch from Lake Huron water to the more corrosive Flint River.
Edwards and his team subsequently linked the Legionella outbreak to the water switch. Edwards declined to comment on Schuette's June 14 because of his involvement in the case.
Regarding the charges against former public works director Howard Croft, the attorney general's office said, "Croft had the ability to mandate changes to the treatment processes at the WTP to ensure proper disinfection was occurring, or switch back to DWSD. Mike Glasgow, former Flint Water Treatment Plant Operator, was allegedly pressured by Croft to start using the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Croft's alleged failure to treat the water properly contributed to the bacterial outbreaks found in Flint, including the legionella in the spring of 2015."
The interim report also rehashes civil charges made against water engineering companies Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN) and Veolia for the "harm they caused to the health and well-being" of Flint residents.
LAN is also charged with "negligence that caused Flint's lead poisoning crisis to continue and worsen, contributing to an ongoing public nuisance."
The two companies, which were consultants to the city, have both said they had no responsibility for the decisions that led to the lead problems.