Nearly seven years after water provided to the residents of the majority Black city of Flint, Michigan, killed 12 people and sickened many more, several officials, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, are facing criminal charges.
Snyder, his health director, and other ex-officials were informed of the legal development by the state’s Attorney General’s office on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Snyder faces two charges of willful neglect of duty, according to online court records, and faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The first crisis came to light on April 25, 2014, when officials sought to cut costs by switching Flint’s drinking water supply from the Detroit city system to the Flint River.
The water proved highly corrosive, and because city and state officials allegedly broke federal law by failing to treat the water properly, lead filtered from pipes into thousands of homes.
When Flint residents complained that their water was brown and contained a foul odor, government officials turned a blinds-eye.
More residents complained of losing their hair while others developed rashes on their skin.
Celebrities like Russell Simmons, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and Cher delivered gallons of bottled water to desperate residents.
Simultaneously, the now late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, offered hotel stays, meals, and water to those adversely affected.
An outside examination of the water discovered large samples contained lead levels well above the action level for lead established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some samples revealed lead levels of more than 100 times the action level.
The catastrophe led to more than 9,000 children getting sick and some residents contracting Legionnaires’ disease. Cases of children who need special education services skyrocketed due to the contamination, according to NBC News.
Some officials later admitted that they either knew about the contamination or acted too late. In addition to Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon, and other unidentified ex-officials are facing prosecution.
News of Snyder’s charges was welcomed news for Bryant Nolden, a member of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners who runs a historic recreation center in Flint. “The buck stopped at Governor Snyder,” he told NBC News. “He was the one that put the people in place that actually did this. We have to see how this all plays out, but I’m very happy to hear that some folks are going to be held accountable at the highest level.
“The residents here are very resilient,” Nolden continued. “We’ve made it through, and we’re dealing with it, but I think that this will help in some small way, letting them know that justice will be served because these people will be held accountable for the wrongs that they did here in this community.”
Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire senior correspondent.