Michigan health chief charged in Flint water probe

- Attorney General Bill Schuette charged two high-ranking state health officials Wednesday in the fourth round of criminal charges in the Flint drinking water crisis.

In a statement, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he had "full faith and confidence" in Mr Lyon and Dr Wells and that they would remain in their posts.

Charging documents allege that Lyon neglected to alert the public about an outbreak of legionnaires disease, a respiratory bacterial infection that can be deadly, and which experts have linked to corrosive and contaminated water. In a statement, the Michigan Attorney General's office said multiple Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires' disease and the charges brought forward Wednesday were in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore.

The Flint water crisis is now in its fourth year, and those allegedly responsible now face involuntary manslaughter charges.

Four others were charged with involuntary manslaughter: former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Early; former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft; Michigan Department of Environment Quality's Drinking Water Chief Laine Shekter-Smith; and Water Supervisor Steven Busch - all for failure to act in the Flint water crisis.

NPR writes: "More than a dozen former state and city officials have been criminally charged in connection with the Flint water crisis", and thus far, "Lyon and Wells are the highest-ranking state officials to be charged". Director Lyon and Dr. Wells have been and continue to be instrumental in Flint's recovery.

The head of the MI health department and the state's chief medical officer are the latest to be charged in an investigation of Flint's lead-contaminated water. The outbreak, which began in 2014 and lasted until October 2015, ultimately killed 12 people. Misconduct in office charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Wednesday's charges stem from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires' disease, including the fatalities, that were believed to be linked to the water in Flint after the city switched its source to the Flint River from Lake Huron in April 2014.

According to a study by Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards, who helped uncover the crisis in 2015, the same decision that poisoned residents' water with lead also allowed the Legionnaire's outbreak to happen.

According to NPR, a Legionnaires' disease outbreak spread in Flint following its switch in water source to the Flint river while under state emergency.

The manslaughter charges are related to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease, which was announced previous year by Governor Rick Snyder with 87 cases of and 10 deaths. As a result, lead leached from pipes, joints and fixtures into Flint households. "We were not successful", he said.

Snyder also said that he would not suspend either of them from their roles at the MDHHS. That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.

  • Joanne Flowers