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Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette holds a press conference on Wednesday. (Photo: The Detroit News)

'Only the Beginning': Three Face Criminal Charges in Flint Water Crisis

Two employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and one city employee charged in lead poisoning disaster

Nadia Prupis

Update:

According to MLive, the individuals charged are Flint employee Michael Glasgow and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Steven Busch and Michael Prysby.

MLive reports:

Glasgow is accused of tampering with evidence when he allegedly changed testing results to show there was less lead in city water than there actually was. He is also charged with willful neglect of office. 

Prysby and Busch are charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, a treatment violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act and a monitoring violation of the Safe Drinking Water.

"These charges are the only beginning and there will be more to come. That I can guarantee you," said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. "So many things went so terribly wrong, and tragically wrong, in Flint."

The news was welcomed by local activists, who cautioned that the people of Flint are still being impacted.

"It's about time that an ounce of accountability was brought to this situation, but the policies that led to this crisis continue to exist," said Nayyirah Shariff, an organizer with Flint Rising. "The people of Flint to this day struggle for basic water needs while state officials do little to remedy the situation. Rick Snyder’s unelected emergency managers who were only interested in cutting costs took our voices away from us while we were forced to drink poisonous water. Where is the accountability for that?"

"We continue to pay sky-high water bills and lack basic access to water that we can trust," Shariff said. "Gov. Snyder’s response to this crisis has been anemic. We need our pipes replaced, full water bill reimbursement until the water is deemed safe across the entire city, and we need health and education services for every resident."

Earlier:

Criminal charges are expected to be filed Wednesday in the Flint water crisis, the Detroit Free Press reports.

According to sources familiar with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's investigation into the lead poisoning disaster, up to four people face felony and misdemeanor counts, with more charges expected to come.

The individuals being charged are connected with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Flint.

The Free Press reports:

Officials believe the city got artificially low lead readings because they didn't test the homes most at risk — those with lead service lines or other features putting them at high risk for lead.

[....] One of the more important pieces of evidence, the sources said, was how city and state officials submitted documentation related to the federal Lead and Copper Rule, which governs acceptable levels of those substances in drinking water. The person familiar with the matter said that some officials who worked on and submitted these reports included information they knew to be incorrect.

According to the Guardian, who also spoke with sources familiar with the case, investigators said the potential charges could range from misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter.

Flint's water was contaminated by lead in April 2014, after the city switched its supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River under the supervision of then-Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who stepped down in January 2015.

Schuette's appointed special counsel for the investigation, Todd Flood, said earlier this year that manslaughter charges were within the realm of possibility.

"If you have a duty and you breach that duty, [and] because of the gross negligence of that breach someone died, and you can show the proximate cause of that death reached to the breach, then you can have involuntary manslaughter," Flood said in February. "It's not far-fetched. It happens. We've been here before."

News of the charges comes as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials face federal racketeering charges filed this month by a group of 15 citizens who said the administration "[failed] to warn and protect the residents of the City of Flint of the consequences of the toxic water as effects their health and property values, despite having knowledge and evidence to the contrary at all times."


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