A new investigation of the Flint, Mi., water disaster led to charges against nine people, including ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and key members of his administration, who are accused of crimes in a calamitous plan that contaminated the area with lead and contributed to a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, the Associated Press reports. Nearly seven years after the doomed decision to use the Flint River, pipes at more than 9,700 homes have been replaced and water quality has improved. Prosecutors said it’s not too late to pursue those responsible for one of the worst human-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.
It’s the second time that six of the nine people have faced charges; previous cases were dropped in 2019 when a new prosecution team took over. Snyder is charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. His former health director, Nick Lyon, and ex-chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2015 deaths of nine people. Authorities said they failed to alert the public about a regional spike in Legionnaires’ disease when the water system might have lacked enough chlorine to combat bacteria in the river water. “The Flint water crisis is not some relic of the past,” said Fadwa Hammoud of the state attorney general’s office. “At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled upon their trust and evaded accountability for far too long.” The charges stemmed from evidence presented to Judge David Newblatt, who served as a one-person grand jury. Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, said a criminal case against him was a “travesty.” He said, “Today’s actions merely perpetrate an outrageous political persecution.”