Author Topic: Flint water crisis: five officials charged with involuntary manslaughter  (Read 738 times)

Offline imchills

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About time.

Five Michigan officials, including the head of the state health department, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the crisis over lead poisoning in drinking water in Flint.

The charges are related to the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore, one of a dozen Flint residents who contracted Legionnaires’ disease and died after the city’s water source was changed to save money.

“This is a case where there’s been a wilful disregard of just using ordinary due diligence,” said Todd Flood, special prosecutor for the office of the Michigan attorney general, which is leading the investigation. “I have come to see there are two types of people in this world – those that give a damn, and those that don’t.”

Attorney general Bill Schuette presented the charges as a turning point in the investigation into water contamination in Flint, which has continued for more than a year. He said investigators would now focus on trying 17 officials who face criminal charges.

Flint’s drinking water was tainted with lead and legionella bacteria, investigators said, after a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint river, without taking proper precautions against pipe corrosion.

The change resulted in a legionella outbreak between 2014 and 2015. Roughly 100 people became ill and 12 are believed to have died. Top health officials in the state knew about the outbreak for months, investigators said, but did nothing to warn the public.

“People in Flint have died as a result of the decisions made with those charged to protect the health and safety of those individuals,” said Schuette. “It’s about restoring accountability and trust to the families of Flint.”

Skidmore was described as a “family man” with three sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He worked at General Motors’ Fisher body plant for 37 years.

Republican governor Rick Snyder has not been charged, despite the alleged involvement of his cabinet in suppressing information. Schuette said his team had attempted to interview the governor, without success.

“I know a question I will get today is: ‘Why aren’t you charging Governor Snyder?’” said Schuette. “And I’ve met with some who say I’ve been too hard on the Snyder administration. Well, so be it.”

Seventeen people have been charged in total. The head of the state health department, Nick Lyon, was charged on Wednesdaywith involuntary manslaughter for failing to warn the public about the legionella outbreak. The top medical official, Dr Eden Wells, was charged with misconduct in office for allegedly threatening to withhold funding for a research project after researchers started looking into the legionella outbreak.

Schuette’s office also added manslaughter to charges faced by four people: Michigan department of environment regional supervisor Stephen Busch; state head of drinking water Liane Shekter-Smith; Howard Croft, a former director of public works for Flint; and the emergency manager who ordered the water switch, Darnell Earley.

Lyon and Wells will remain at the state department of health while they await trial. In a statement, Snyder said Lyon was “a strong leader” and added that he and Dr Wells were “instrumental in Flint’s recovery”. The governor also criticized the delay faced by other state officials waiting to go to trial. “This is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.”

“These charges reflect the deaths that occurred,” said Schuette. “I owe that to the citizens of Flint … the moms and dads who wanted to give their kids a cool drink of water [yesterday] – it was 90F – but they didn’t because they were fearful of the water.”

As part of a settlement, a judge recently ordered Michigan to set aside $97m to replace lead lines in Flint, as the city attempts to rebuild. As Schuette noted: “Many families still drink, cook and bathe only with bottled water.”

Offline Battle

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Thursday, 20th August 2o2o
Michigan to pay $600 million to Flint water crisis victims
by Kanishka Singh and Clarence Fernandez

The U.S. state of Michigan has reached a settlement to pay about $600 million to victims of the Flint water crisis, three newspapers said late on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources.

The settlement will be announced this week, the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal said.

Most of the amount will be allocated for children who suffered from lead-tainted tapwater after officials switched the city’s water supply six years ago, they added.

About 80% is to go to residents younger than 18 between April 25, 2014 and July 31, 2016, the Wall Street Journal said, estimating the number of such claims between 7,500 and 20,000.

The rest will go to plaintiffs in other types of lawsuits, such as those for property damage and loss of revenue.

The settlement is subject to approval by a federal judge in Michigan, the New York Times said.

The Washington Post said the plaintiffs’ lawyers reached a deal last week with Michigan lawyers on behalf of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, the Supreme Court let Flint residents pursue a civil rights lawsuit accusing the city and government officials of knowingly allowing the water supply to become contaminated with lead.

Flint switched its public water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to cut costs during a financial crisis.

But the corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes, and the city switched back to Lake Huron water the following year.

More than 25,000 people were harmed through exposure to contaminants in Flint, including more than 5,000 children younger than 12, court records showed as of January.

« Last Edit: August 20, 2020, 11:27:37 am by Battle »